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"Two Pilots Sent to Prison for Drunkenness"

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Two Pilots Sent to Prison for Drunkenness
The Associated Press

MIAMI -- Two airline pilots who got behind the controls while drunk drew
sentences Thursday of 2 1/2 years and five years in prison.

Thomas Cloyd, 47, of Peoria, Ariz., and co-pilot Christopher Hughes, 44, of
Leander, Texas, settled into the cockpit of a Phoenix-bound America West
jetliner in 2002 after a night of heavy drinking at a sports bar. They were
arrested before the plane took off but after it had pushed away from the
They were later fired, and were found guilty June 8 of operating an aircraft
while drunk.

Cloyd was sentenced to five years in prison. Circuit Judge David Young said
he had no sympathy for Cloyd, who had been on probation for an
alcohol-related offense just months before his arrest.

Hughes was ordered to serve 2 1/2 years behind bars.

Prosecutors had recommended four years for Cloyd and three for Hughes,
sentences that defense attorneys said were too harsh because no one got

The judge could not hide his disdain for either of them: "What were you
thinking of?"

"What you did was absolutely wrong," he said.

The pilots had been at the bar up until about six hours before their
departure time; federal rules say pilots cannot drink in the eight hours
before a flight. Police stepped in after screeners smelled alcohol on their

Tested hours later, their blood-alcohol levels were above Florida's 0.08
percent limit for drunken driving, which includes aircraft, according to
testimony. Their levels were probably much higher when they were in the
cockpit, the experts said.

Testimony showed that Cloyd and Hughes ran up a $122 tab and drank 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,
prosecutors said.

The pilots had argued at trial that they were not drunk. The also contended
they were not in control of their Airbus 319 carrying 117 passengers and
crew because it was being towed by a ground crew when police ordered the jet
back to the gate.

Prosecutor Hillah Katz called that argument "an insult."

At the sentencing, the pilots' attorneys said their clients had taken steps
to fight their alcoholism and asked the judge to be lenient.

Cloyd's lawyer said the pilot was having marital problems before his arrest
and was still distraught by the death of his father in a plane crash years

Hughes' family declined to comment while leaving the courthouse. When
reporters asked Cloyd's wife, Debbie, what she thought of the sentence, she
would only say: "Haven't you people had enough?"

Attached Photo:

Former America West co-pilot Christopher Hughes, left, and pilot Thomas
Cloyd, right, listen to as their sentences are handed down from Miami-Dade
Circuit Judge David Young Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Miami. Hughes, of
Leander, Texas, was ordered to 2 1/2 years in prison and Cloyd, of Peoria,
Ariz., was sentenced to the maximum penalty of five years in prison. The two
were found guilty June 8 of operating an aircraft while drunk. 


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