Drunk Delta Air Lines pilot due to captain Boeing 767 to New York jailed in UK 

An NTSB report revealed that leaking toilet water resulted in pilots having to deal with reduced aileron movement
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A Delta Air Lines pilot who was stopped from flying after he turned up at Edinburgh Airport (EDI) to captain a transatlantic flight drunk and with just under one and a half bottle of Jägermeister in his hand luggage has been jailed in Scotland. 

At Edinburgh Sheriff Court on March 19, 2024, Sheriff Alison Stirling sentenced Lawrence Russell Jr to 10 months in jail after the Delta Air Lines captain pled guilty to reporting for duty as a pilot while exceeding the prescribed blood alcohol limit. 

The court was told that the proportion of alcohol found in the 63-year-old pilot’s blood was “not less than 49 milligrams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood, which exceeded the prescribed limit of 20 milligrams”. The blood alcohol limit for car drivers in the United Kingdom is 50 milligrams.   

Details of the events that led to Russell’s arrest on June 16, 2023, were made public in court Sheriff Alison Stirling during sentencing.  

“I’m terrified”

Russell was due to captain a transatlantic Boeing 767 flight from Edinburgh to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, at 10:35 local time and arrived at 09:15 dressed in his Delta uniform and wearing a company lanyard and crew pass.      

He was stopped by security after an X-ray machine alerted staff to the pilot’s hand luggage and on inspection it was found to contain two bottles of Jägermeister, one of which was open and just under half full. 

Due to Russell being dressed in uniform the police were called and upon arrival the pilot advised officers that he had not drunk recently, but that you had been drinking the previous evening.   

Russell failed a breathalyzer test at the airport and a subsequent blood test when he was taken to Livingston Police Station.  

When told by officers that he was being charged, Russell responded, “I’m terrified”. 

The court heard that since the incident Russell was diagnosed with severe alcohol use disorder and with support of the Talbott Recovery Skyline Program was now in remission.  

Talbott Recovery Skyline Program reported to the court that Russell lost his job and was now on disability. 

Russell showed remorse that the flight was cancelled due to his behavior and for the inconvenience the episode had on passengers and his former employer.  

The court revealed that Russell was caught driving under the influence of alcohol as a student, and that there was a more recent occurrence of the offence too. 

Russell was said to have had a good upbringing, and had the support of his wife, two sons and Delta.  

“High potential for serious harm” 

“Despite the presumption in Scotland against imposing short sentences, custody is the only appropriate disposal, having regard to the serious nature of your offending.  Your offence showed a high level of culpability, and a high potential for serious harm to have been done,” Sheriff Alison Stirling said. 

The sentence of 10 months was reduced from the headline sentence of 15 months due to the pilot pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity.  

Reasons for the sentence included punishment, protection of the public and deterrence of others who may be inclined to commit similar offences.  

The court was told that once Russell completes his sentence, he will apply for a new Aviation Medical Certificate, and he expected that he would be re-instated as a pilot.  

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