AN armed air marshal was hauled off a jet at Heathrow and arrested accused of being drunk.
Cops were told he “stank of booze” by the captain of the flight to the US.
The marshal — carrying a concealed loaded weapon was taken to the airport’s nick and breathalysed.
The United Airlines flight to Los Angeles was two hours late taking off.
A source on the Boeing 777-200 said yesterday after up to 266 passengers aboard Flight 935 were left fuming: “The captain smelt alcohol on the breath of one of four armed US air marshals who were on board.
“Police were called.
“It caused quite a scene.”
The federal marshal whose duty in the wake of 9/11 is to “detect, deter and defeat hostile acts” — was later freed without charge because he had not broken any UK laws.
A police source said: “It is only an offence if someone has an aviation function like flying the plane or being an engineer.
“When the case was reviewed it was decided the legislation did not fit with the function he performed.”
Last night US officials were investigating — since air marshals are strictly barred from drinking for at least four hours before a flight.
They must also have no trace of alcohol in their blood when armed and on duty.
Their guns are usually a SIG Sauer P250 or P229 the same as those used by the US secret service.
They operate a “shoot to stop” policy and carry a baton and handcuffs.
Scotland Yard confirmed: “Police were called at 12.25pm on Monday following concerns from the captain that a person trying to board was under the influence of alcohol.
“Officers breathalysed the man.
“He was arrested on suspicion of being over the prescribed limit but released shortly after with no further action.”
A United Airlines spokesman said: “We apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused by the delay.”