Pilots accused of being drunk now facing a new charge


Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 30, 2002 at 10:41 p.m.
MIAMI - A new charge was filed Monday against two former America West pilots who were allegedly drunk while behind the controls of a jetliner preparing for takeoff at Miami International Airport.
Prosecutors have added a charge of culpable negligence against both Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes, alleging that they unlawfully exposed 124 Phoenix-bound passengers to personal injury by operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol.
Cloyd and Hughes both pleaded innocent to the new charge. They had previously pleaded innocent to felony charges of operating an aircraft and motor vehicle under the influence, also stemming from the July 1 incident.
Both pilots declined comment when leaving the courtroom Monday. One of their attorneys, William Pearson, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The pilots offered nothing but "yes, sir" responses to questions posed by Circuit Judge David Young during the 25-minute hearing.
Young rescheduled a hearing on defense motions for Oct. 23. Cloyd and Hughes both must appear at that hearing, during which their attorneys are expected to ask for a dismissal of all charges because the plane's steering mechanism was still locked down when the pilots were arrested.
The defense contends that since the pilots were not actually steering the plane when officials demanded it return to the gate, they cannot be guilty of operating under the influence.
The trial, which was scheduled to begin Oct. 21, is now delayed until Nov. 4. Young expressed some doubt that the trial will start as scheduled because of the number of expert witnesses both sides may involve in the case.
Tests showed both men had blood-alcohol levels over Florida's limit of 0.08 percent after their plane returned to the gate moments after beginning its taxi to the runway. A security screener, Manuel Salazar, had alerted authorities that both pilots had alcohol on their breath before boarding.
the plane. Federal regulations prohibit pilots from operating an aircraft within eight hours of consuming alcohol or if they have a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent or higher. The pilots allegedly boarded the jetliner at 10:15 a.m., less than six hours after settling a $122 bar tab at a Miami restaurant.
Hughes' credit card receipt showed he paid for seven 34-ounce beers, seven 16-ounce beers, a draft beer, one martini and a hamburger, all served between about 10:49 p.m. on June 30 and 4:22 a.m. on July 1 at Mr. Moe's restaurant.
America West fired Cloyd and Hughes shortly after the incident, citing a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol abuses. The Federal Aviation Administration has also revoked the pilots' licenses.

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