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Pilots Drunk at Jetliner's Helm, Police Say

July 02, 2002|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Two America West pilots at the helm of a Phoenix-bound jetliner were ordered to return to the airport terminal moments before takeoff Monday and were arrested for being legally drunk, police said.

The pilots were each charged with a felony count of operating an aircraft under the influence and operating a motor vehicle under the influence, police said.

Both have been suspended with pay pending an investigation by the airline, said Patty Nowack, an America West spokeswoman.

Miami-Dade police Det. Juan DelCastillo said screeners at Miami International Airport first noticed an odor of alcohol on the men when they tried to bring cups of coffee through the security checkpoint.

The screeners alerted airport officials, who called police. By the time officers arrived, the plane had already left the gate. The airport tower ordered the plane back to the terminal and the pilots were given a cursory sobriety test, DelCastillo said.

The men then agreed to take a breath test. Both registered blood-alcohol levels above 0.08, Florida's legal limit for operating machinery, DelCastillo said.

Pilot Thomas Cloyd, 44, had a 0.091 blood-alcohol level, while Christopher Hughes registered 0.084, police said.

The pilots couldn't be reached for comment Monday; they were being held by police pending processing. It wasn't immediately clear if they had obtained attorneys.

Cloyd has worked for America West since 1990.

Hughes joined the airline in January 1999, Nowack said. Both pilots have good working records, she said.

It was the pilots' first flight of the day, she said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating to determine whether to take action against the pilots, which could include revoking their licenses or suspending them, spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

Federal aviation rules prohibit pilots from flying within eight hours of consuming alcohol or with a blood-alcohol level of 0.04.

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