MIAMI (AP) -- Two former America West pilots were convicted Wednesday of being drunk in the cockpit the morning after an all-night drinking binge at a sports bar.
The pilots face a minimum of probation and a maximum of five years in prison after being found guilty of operating an aircraft while drunk.
Defendants Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes both bowed their heads when the verdict was read after a two-week trial and jury deliberations over parts of two days. Each man hugged weeping loved ones before being handcuffed and taken to jail.
Cloyd, 47, and Hughes, 44, were arrested July 1, 2002, as their Phoenix-bound jet was being pushed back from its gate at Miami International Airport.
Police ordered the plane to turn back and arrested the pilots after security screeners smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Hughes, and Cloyd got in an argument over his attempts to bring aboard a cup of coffee.
The pilots had 14 beers between them the night before the flight, closing out their $122 bar tab at about 4:40 a.m. _ roughly six hours before their flight was to depart. Hours later, they registered blood-alcohol levels above Florida's 0.08 legal limit.
The pilots maintained they were not operating the aircraft because the Airbus 319 was being pushed by a runway tug and its steering was disengaged at the time it was ordered back to the terminal. They were fired by America West after their arrests and lost their commercial pilot's licenses.
''All I can say is that we are very disappointed,'' said attorney James Rubin, who represents Hughes and declined comment on whether the pair would appeal.
Assistant State Attorney Deisy Rodriguez had called the defendants ''stumbling, fumbling'' drunks who put 117 passengers and crew in grave danger.
''We have protected some lives today,'' Rodriguez said after the verdict.
She cited testimony that both pilots performed flight checks for 30 minutes before the jet left the gate. When questioned by police on the day of their arrest, she said both pilots answered ''yes'' when asked if they had been operating an aircraft.
Judge David Young ordered both men held without bail and set sentencing for July 20.
Two airline pilots who got behind the controls after a night of heavy drinking at a sports bar have been sentenced to prison by a judge who didn't hide his disdain, saying ''What were you thinking...
The pilots were arrested before the America West jetliner took off but after it had pushed away from the gate at Miami Int'l Airport in 2002.
A United Airlines pilot was removed from the cockpit and questioned by police after security screeners at Miami Int'l Airport reported smelling alcohol.
The crew member was released on bail pending the results of tests and was due to report to a Manchester police station Tuesday.