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FAA investigating why Grand Forks flight was canceled

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The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the circumstances that led to a Delta Airlines flight being canceled Sunday before departing the Grand Forks International Airport for Minneapolis.

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Elizabeth Cory, public affairs spokeswoman for the FAA, said Monday the federal agency is investigating "an event involving the flight."

But she said she could not confirm allegations that the incident involved an intoxicated flight attendant. "I can't say anymore," she said, because it's an open investigation.

A passenger scheduled to take the flight told the Herald a Grand Forks police officer on airport duty assisted in the situation.

Another passenger saw the female flight attendant being escorted into the administrative offices in the lower floor of the airport terminal, the passenger said. Later, he said, one of the flight's pilots told him it was a "personnel issue."

The flight wasn't canceled until 2:30 p.m., the passenger said.

FAA investigators are on the ground in Grand Forks working the case, and "we have people in other areas of the country checking records," Cory said. Such investigations "take as long as necessary," she said.

Airport process

Joe Williams, spokesman for Pinnacle Airlines, which was operating the 50-passenger jet due to depart Grand Forks at 1:07 p.m. on the Delta flight, said Monday no new information was available in the company's investigation of the incident.

The Pinnacle investigation involves the sole flight attendant scheduled to work the flight, and not the pilot or co-pilot, Williams said Sunday.

He could not confirm reports that it involved a flight attendant being intoxicated. But he said Pinnacle's rules are "stricter" than FAA regulations, which forbid any use of alcohol in the eight hours before a flight. Pinnacle requires flight crews to not use alcohol 12 hours before a flight, he said.

The flight attendant has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of Pinnacle's investigation, he said.

Patrick Dame, executive director of the Grand Forks Airport Authority, said he was told of the incident Sunday, but he the investigation is a matter for the airlines not the airport.

The main point, he said, was "the passengers, and our customers, were safe and the process that was put in place worked, in this circumstance. The plane didn't leave our airport."

A Grand Forks police officer is on duty for all flights and can lend a hand if security or airline staff asks, he said.

No report from the Grand Forks police department was available Monday because of the President's Day holiday, a department spokeswoman said.

The 30 passengers on the flight were "accommodated" on the next flight scheduled out of Grand Forks to Minneapolis, which departed about 3 p.m. Sunday, Williams said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com.

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