What are the alcohol rules for US pilots? Delta pilot arrested for allegedly being drunk before flight

This is a serious charge to level against a pilot. The arrest of a Delta pilot on being drunk before flight has travelers wondering about alcohol policies for pilots. Moreover, the possibility of a flight taking off with an impaired pilot has also raised questions for airlines. Perhaps, takeoff is one of the most dangerous times of flight and an impaired pilot could lead to a dangerous scenario for passengers. Thankfully, the TSA authorities made the interception before the aircraft was in the air.

Delta pilot arrested for allegedly being drunk before flight

Delta pilot Gabriel Lyle Schroeder, of Rosemount, Minnesota, was scheduled to fly Delta 1728 to San Diego at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He left a pre-boarding TSA screening line for crew members after seeing that they were conducting additional screening. Apparently, this drew suspicion of the TSA officials and two sobriety checks on Schroeder were conducted during TSA screening. One of the test results proved him intoxicated. The results for the second test are pending. Also, he was found to be carrying a bottle of alcohol. Eventually, the Delta pilot was taken into custody by the airport police. Three hours later, he was released, pending a formal complaint. Investigators are still waiting for the toxicology results, which may take as long as a week. When Schroeder was arrested, the plane was fully boarded but had not yet left the gate. Passengers who had boarded the plane, Delta Flight 1728, disembarked after the pilot was arrested. Unfortunately, the flight due to fly from Minneapolis to San Diego was slightly delayed.

Delta Pilot arrested
Delta Pilot arrested

Alcohol and Flying: A Deadly Combination

This refers to pilots flying. The perils of drinking the previous day or evening and then waking up and climbing in the cockpit can lead to tragic accidents. One such notorious case of drinking and flying was reported in 1990 when a Northwest Airlines captain, flight engineer and first officer were arrested at the Twin Cities airport. A patron of a Fargo-area bar had tipped authorities that the crew had been drinking heavily there the night before. Federal regulations were tightened after that.

FAA’s drug and alcohol regulations

The FAA specifically prohibits pilots from flying or attempting to fly an aircraft within 8 hours of consuming alcohol.

FAA's drug and alcohol regulations
FAA’s drug and alcohol regulations
  • Pilots in USA face a strict blood alcohol level restriction, with .04 being considered illegal.
  • Pilots are prohibited from allowing crew members who appear to be under the influence to fly on their aircraft.
  • All crew members must submit to blood alcohol tests when requested by law enforcement officials. Tests include testing for a reasonable suspicion of alcohol, random drug and alcohol testing,  post-accident drug and alcohol testing, return-to-duty drug or alcohol testing following successful rehabilitation and follow-up drug and/or alcohol testing.
  • The TSA does not screen crew members for drugs or alcohol but if there’s the slightest suspicion, they’re instructed to notify a supervisor who would notify local law enforcement.
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