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Fla. Police: Pilots Were Drunk

July 2, 2002

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MIAMI (AP) _ A Phoenix-bound jetliner was preparing for takeoff with 124 passengers aboard when officials called it back to the terminal and arrested both pilots for allegedly being drunk in the cockpit.

Airport security screeners said they noticed a whiff of alcohol on two America West pilots Monday when they got into a dispute over cups of coffee they wanted to bring through a checkpoint.

The screeners at Miami International Airport alerted officials who called police. But by the time officers arrived, the plane had already left the gate and was headed for takeoff.

The flight was called back to the terminal and the pilots were given a cursory sobriety test, said Miami-Dade police Detective Juan DelCastillo.

Breath tests revealed both pilots had blood-alcohol levels above .08, Florida’s legal limit for operating machinery.

Pilot Thomas Cloyd, 44, and co-pilot Christopher Hughes, 40, were each charged Monday with a felony count of operating an aircraft under the influence and operating a motor vehicle under the influence.

Cloyd had a .091 blood-alcohol level, while Hughes registered .084, DelCastillo said. Federal Aviation Administration rules prohibit pilots from drinking alcohol eight hours before flying a plane. America West’s policy is 12 hours.

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

``We are indeed conducting an investigation,″ Nowack said. ``If these pilots did have alcohol in their system, they will be terminated.″

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the incident to determine whether to take action against the pilots, which could include having their licenses revoked or suspended, spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

It could not be determined Monday if the pilots have 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.

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