Following a July 1, 2002 arrest for operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol, two former America West Airlines pilots have been indicted in Miami on charges of being under the influence of alcohol while they were behind the controls of a passenger aircraft. According to a CNN article, the federal indictment charges both Capt. Thomas Cloyd and co-pilot Christopher Hughes with being drunk while they directed and operated an aircraft. FAR 91.17 prohibits pilots from consuming alcohol in the eight hours before a flight.
When tested following their arrest, both men had a blood alcohol content in excess of the state limit of .08, but below the federal limit of .10. Additionally, the state apparently has videotaped evidence showing the men drinking in a Miami bar six hours before their scheduled departure.
The State of Florida initially prosecuted the pilots, but a federal court dismissed the charges ruling that federal law pre-empted state law regarding pilot qualifications. The state has appealed that ruling, but no decision has been issued. Since their initial arrest, both pilots were terminated from America West and have had their commercial airman certificates revoked by the FAA.
This is an unfortunate event all the way around. It gives commercial pilots a bad reputation in the public eye. The pilots are now prohibited from working in their chosen profession. And the court’s are now forced to decide whether state or federal law should apply to an offense that any pilot with common sense should know enough to avoid. Perhaps some good will come out of this in that the publicity this is receiving m