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Delta pilot jailed for being drunk on flight to NYC

by Staff


A veteran Delta Airlines pilot who showed up drunk with blood alcohol more than twice the legal limit for a flight from Scotland to New York City last year has been sentenced to 10 months in jail.

Lawrence Russell, 63, from Georgia, learned his fate Tuesday, two weeks after pleading guilty in Scotland to a charge of reporting for duty as pilot while exceeding the prescribed blood alcohol limit.

“Custody is the only appropriate disposal, having regard to the serious nature of your offending,” the judge, Sheriff Alison Stirling, told the fired pilot in Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

Delta Airlines pilot Lawrence Russell, 63, has been sentenced to 10 months in a Scottish jail for showing up drunk for a flight last year. LinkedIn
Russell was scheduled to captain a flight from Edinburgh to New York City, which had to be canceled. VWF Photography

“Your offense showed a high level of culpability, and a high potential for serious harm to have been done.”

Russell was scheduled to captain a Boeing 767 Delta Flight DL209 bound for JFK on the morning of June 16, 2023, when two bottles of Jägermeister — one half-empty — were discovered in his carry-on luggage during a bag search at Edinburgh Airport, according to a statement by the Judiciary of Scotland.

The manual search was performed after the airport’s X-ray machine rejected Russell’s bag “due to the volume of liquids within it.”

Because Russell was wearing his pilot uniform with a Delta lanyard around his neck, police were called.

The pilot said he had not drunk recently, but that he had been drinking the previous evening.

Russell was given a breath test, which he failed and was “upset” about it, according to the statement. He then agreed to provide a blood sample that revealed he had 49mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.

The prescribed volume of alcohol for pilots in Scotland is just 20mg, compared to 50mg for drivers.

The Edinburgh-to-New York City flight had to be canceled, and Russell was taken into custody, telling law enforcement, “I’m terrified,” the sheriff’s statement read.

Russell lost his job and was diagnosed with severe alcohol use disorder, which the sheriff noted has been in remission after he completed a recovery program for pilots.

Stirling said that while the married dad-of-two had no prior convictions in the UK, his history included multiple DUI instances.

Russell had two bottles of Jägermeister — one half-empty — in his carry-on bag. pavlofox – stock.adobe.com

The sheriff acknowledged that Russell was “remorseful for the inconvenience” caused to Delta and the airline’s passengers.

Since his arrest, the disgraced pilot has been on long-term disability and receiving half his salary from Delta, which was described as being “very supportive” of Russell.

After completing his jail term, Russell will have to re-apply for an aviation medical certificate. If granted, he could be re-instated to his former job as a captain.




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