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Delta Air Pilot Jailed For 10 Months For Showing a ‘Reckless Disregard’ For the Safety of His Passengers When He Was Caught More Than Twice Over the Alcohol Limit

Delta Air Pilot Jailed For 10 Months For Showing a ‘Reckless Disregard’ For the Safety of His Passengers When He Was Caught More Than Twice Over the Alcohol Limit

the nose of a plane

A veteran pilot for Delta Air Lines has been jailed in the United Kingdom for ten months after he pleaded guilty to reporting for duty as a pilot while being impaired through alcohol. 

Captain Lawrence Russell, 63, was sentenced at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday following his arrest on June 16, 2023. Prosecutors accused him of showing a ‘reckless disregard’ for the safety of his passengers and of putting hundreds of lives in danger.

The long-serving pilot for the Atlanta-based carrier was due to fly a Boeing 767 with hundreds of passengers onboard from Edinburgh, Scotland, to New York JFK aboard Delta Air Lines flight DL209.

Prosecutors say Russell showed up at the airport ready to fly the plane, but he was stopped at the security checkpoint after the X-ray machine rejected his bag.

Security officers found two bottles of Jägermeister in his carry-on, and one had already been opened and half drunk. The officers became suspicious and called the police, who made Russell take a breathalyser test.

Russell was taken into custody after he failed the initial breathalyser test, and he was then made to provide a sample of blood for further alcohol testing. The disgraced aviator was found to have 49 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, whereas the legal limit is just 20 milligrams.

“Lawrence Russell’s conduct would have endangered many lives; the consequences could have been catastrophic,” slammed Lynne Barrie, Procurator Fiscal for Lothian and Borders after Russell was sentenced.

“He showed a reckless disregard for the safety of his passengers and crew. The pilot of a commercial aircraft holds the lives of hundreds in his hands. He would have put all of them at serious risk,” Barrie continued.

The maximum penalty for anyone found guilty of being “over the prescribed limit” is a two-year jail sentence, and Russell will likely only serve half of his sentence behind bars.

In 2019, an American Airlines flight attendant managed to swerve a prison sentence after she was found guilty of being over the alcohol limit for aircrew following her arrest at Heathrow Airport.

Security officers called the police after they smelled alcohol on her breath as she passed through a security checkpoint. At the police station, a blood test revealed that the flight attendant was more than four times over the limit.

Prosecutors have taken a less lenient approach to pilots, however, and in 2018, a Japan Airlines pilot was sentenced to 10 months in jail for being over the prescribed limit before attempting to fly to Tokyo.

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