American pilot jailed for being over alcohol limit before Edinburgh to New York flight

An American pilot who was found to be almost two and a half times the alcohol limit as he prepared to take charge of a trans-Atlantic flight from Edinburgh to New York has been jailed for 10 months.

Captain Lawrence Russell, 63, was sentenced at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after pleading guilty to reporting for duty as a pilot while being impaired through alcohol. 

Lynne Barrie, Procurator Fiscal for Lothian and Borders, said: “Lawrence Russell’s conduct would have endangered many lives; the consequences could have been catastrophic. 

“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.  

“This conviction should send the message that crimes of this nature will be robustly dealt with.” 

The court heard how Russell, of the state of Georgia, was rostered to fly the Boeing 767 plane from Edinburgh to New York’s JFK Airport early on Friday, June 16, 2023. 

He was stopped after his carry-on baggage was rejected by an X-ray security machine. 

Security staff found two bottles of Jägermeister – one of which had been opened and which was half full. 

Russell, who was wearing a pilot’s uniform and wore a lanyard with the word “Delta” printed on it, admitted he was the owner of the alcohol. 

He then failed a breath test at 9.30am and later a sample of blood was taken which showed Russell had not less than 49 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. 

This exceeded the legal limit which is 20 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.