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Tue, Jul 02, 2002

Two Pilots Arrested, Charged With Drunken Taxiing

Both Were Over Legal Driving Limit, Police Say; But They Were in the Cockpit!

Miami-Dade County Police spokesman Juan Delcastillo commented on yesterday's arrest of two America West pilots, who were ordered to return to the gate, as they were taxiing for takeoff for Phoenix, with 124 PAX and three additional crew aboard.

The plane was turned around at Miami-Dade after police contacted the tower. The pilots complied.

The two were rude as they tried to carry cups of coffee through security (see <<A class="" href="http://www.aero-news.net/news/sport.cfm?ContentBlockID=45FCE880-0CD4-4C76-BABB-35EF17E760B1" target=_blank>STRONG>related story today); and the screener said they both smelled of alcohol. The cops called the tower just in time.

Yes -- but were they drinking? Delcastillo says they failed a roadside sobriety test at the airport, and were taken to the police station. Keep in mind that this was some time, long after they boarded the plane; and even after they were to have taken off and gone to a cabin altitude of 8000 feet -- "The pilot came back with 0.091 and the co-pilot with a 0.084," he said. In Florida, you can't even drive a car at those levels!

The two, identified as Captain Thomas Cloyd, 44, and First Officer Christopher Hughes, 40, were locked up on felony charges of operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol (OAUI?).

America West's media relations people were quick to respond; the company's policy tolerates no alcohol, within twelve hours of departure (or, of course, while working). That's 50% more abstinence than even the FAA requires. These two men appear to be in a lot of trouble, on many fronts -- but nothing compared to the trouble they could have caused, if the (private-company) screener, the police, and the tower hadn't been on their toes.

The flight was canceled, and passengers were put on other flights.

FMI: http://beta.americawest.com

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