Convictions of Pilots Who Got Behind Controls Drunk Upheld

An appeals court Wednesday upheld the convictions and prison sentences of two pilots who got behind the controls of an America West plane while drunk.

Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes were arrested before the Phoenix-bound America West jetliner took off but after it had pushed away from the gate at Miami International Airport in 2002.

The two had been at a bar until about six hours before their flight time; federal rules say pilots cannot drink in the eight hours before departure. Police stepped in after screeners smelled alcohol on their breath. Hours later, officials said their blood-alcohol levels were still above Florida's 0.08 percent limit for drunken driving.

The men were convicted last year of operating an aircraft while intoxicated or in a careless or reckless manner.

Cloyd, 49, was sentenced to five years in prison. Hughes, 45, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years.

According to testimony at their trial, Cloyd and Hughes ran up a $122 tab and had seven 34-ounce glasses and seven 16-ounce glasses of beer over six hours at the bar. At dinner before that, they had wine and Cloyd drank a martini.

Cloyd, from Peoria, Ariz., and Hughes, from Leander, Texas, argued they were not drunk. The also contended they were not in control of their Airbus 319 carrying 117 passengers and crew when police stepped in because the plane was being towed by a ground crew when it was ordered back to the gate.

In another incident this week, a Southwest Airlines co-pilot was charged in Salt Lake City after being accused of being intoxicated just minutes before takeoff.

Carl Fulton, 41, was arrested July 9 after a Transportation Security Administration screener reported smelling alcohol on his breath at a security check point about 30 minutes before the Southwest Flight was set to depart for Phoenix.

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