Delta Pilot Arrested For Drunk Flying

The reports and other documentation associated with this arrest can be accessed at http://tiny.cc/drunkpilot

This case is particularly interesting because of the uncertainty as to Schroeder’s actual blood alcohol concentration at the time of his arrest. There was a delay of more than two hours from the time of his arrest to the time of his blood draw, and the lab test result ended up being .027% (you can read about the reason for the delay in the documents linked above).

The police requested that a forensic scientist conduct a retrograde extrapolation (“RE”), which is a scientific and mathematical process used to estimate what a person’s blood alcohol content was at a specific time based on test results and collateral information obtained at a later point in time. The results of the RE (also linked above) found that Schroeder’s blood alcohol concentration at the time of his arrest was between .04% and .08%. The legal limit for flying a plane is .04%, but that’s not all.

The RE was based in part on statements Schroeder made during the interview you see in this video. It’s not a stretch to suggest that Schroeder’s casual guess as to when he stopped drinking might have been off by an hour, and accounting for such an error could reasonably result in the low-end of the RE dropping below .04%.

Of course, the above is all academic, as a search of the FAA’s Airmen Certificate database reveals that Gabriel Lyle Schroeder is not currently licensed to operate any aircraft. The FAA does not publicly provide information regarding the history of, or enforcement actions taken against airmen certificates, and I have submitted a request to the FAA for all 2019 records relating to Gabriel Lyle Schroeder, which will of course include all [non-exempt] records relating to enforcement actions taken and any challenges or appeals filed by Schroeder. We’ll see what turns up. (*To be clear, Schroeder had been licensed. Until this happened.)

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The following text is selectively quoted from the report of Detective Dylan Thomas of the MSP Airport Police. The sections included below are primarily intended to provide information that cannot be known from watching the video.

“…I asked Schroeder if I could speak to him in the rear of the aircraft and Schroeder agreed. It should be noted that at this time, there were two passengers already on board.

As I began speaking with Schroeder, he started sweating and shaking. Schroeder stated he had not consumed any alcohol since last Saturday (three days prior). As Schroeder was speaking with me, I could smell a light odor of a consumed alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath. Schroeder stated he does not know why his breath would smell like alcohol. Schroeder stated he had not recently used mouthwash, gum or mints. Schroeder told me he never went to the bathroom and only went to the Delta crew room. After questioning Schroeder on this, he then stated he might have gone to the bathroom but did not discard a bottle of alcohol in the trash. I asked Schroeder twice if he felt like he was alright to fly the aircraft and as ed if he would like to leave the aircraft and go home. Schroeder stated he was not under the influence of alcohol, that he was fine and that he was going to fly the aircraft shortly.

I went and spoke to the Delta Captain of the aircraft who was identified as David Oneil Battles. Battles stated that Schroeder told him this conversation was occurring because Schroeder forgot his iPad prior to going through screening. I advised Battles that Schroeder was lying to him and advised him of what was actually occurring. Battles told me that he believed he would have noticed if Schroeder was impaired. I asked Battles if he was still comfortable flying with Schroeder knowing he was being deceptive to police and him. Battles stated he was comfortable still flying with Schroeder.

I then administered a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) lack of smooth pursuit test to Schroeder in the aisle of the aircraft. Schroeder had a lack of smooth pursuit in both eyes. At that time, Officer Dixon arrived with a preliminary breath test (PBT). I checked Schroeder’s mouth which was clear of debris. I administered the PBT to Schroeder. Schroeder provided a sample of .065 BrAC. [Note: the limit for operating an aircraft is .04%.”

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Author: rafael.nieves

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49 thoughts on “Delta Pilot Arrested For Drunk Flying

  1. You know, this stuff isn't happening any more often than it ever did it's just that we now have more ways to detect it we have CCTV we have a 24-hour news cycle and channels like YouTube so we are hearing about it we're 20 years ago the most egregious was heard about but nothing else

  2. Northwest (Formerly Orient) Airlines merged with Delta Air Lines in 2008 and Northwest was considered a "Lesser" carrier – so I wonder if this flight officer (If employed that long) was a former Northwest pilot since most all their employees stayed on. Minneapolis was not a hub for Delta until the merger which was a big hub for Northwest so a lot of crew members who are stationed at hubs like Minneapolis & Memphis are former Northwest personnel.

  3. Luckily for the public all commercial flights have at least two pilots on board. Now if both pilots are intoxicated then…
    There is a program on Smithsonian called "Air Disasters" and I recall a fatal air crash maybe in 2007 that killed (45) everyone aboard and the Captain had cocaine in his system and was a known user.

  4. He probably had a drinking problem. While I wouldn't want him flying my plane with alcohol in his system, as a former police officer, I can say he was not slurring his speech during the interview and seemed pretty lucid and totally cooperative.

    I hope that Delta doesn't throw his career away. Yes, he made a big mistake, but with treatment hopefully it's a mistake he won't make again.

  5. I was a gate agent.. Several years ago.. One time I had a cockpit jumpseat pilot who worked for Delta connection show up for a jump. He reaked of alcohol. He said he was at a party the night before, He was dressed in full uniform, obviously he was intending to fly later in the day. I felt very uneasy so I got the captian. The captian took one look at him and told him to get lost. Frankly he should have been arrested. Don't know what ever happened to him, it's a shame..

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