Natalia J. Garland
The two former America West pilots, convicted on one felony count
each of operating an aircraft while intoxicated, were sentenced on
July 22, 2005. I wrote about their arrest back in July, 2002, in
my essay entitled, Is Society Outraged? Well, a Florida
court judge, David Young, was apparently outraged when he
sentenced the two pilots to prison.
Let's review the
case. Thomas Cloyd, age 47, and Christopher Hughes, age 44, were
removed from their airplane at Miami International Airport after
a security screener smelled alcohol on them. The two pilots had
been out drinking in a Miami bar the night before. They drank
close to 22 pints of beer between them. Their bar tab totalled at
$122.00. They left the bar around 5:00 a.m., and showed up late
for their 10:30 a.m. flight.
Cloyd had a B.A.C.
level of .091, and Hughes' was .084. The legal limit in Florida
is .08. The rule of the F.A.A. (Federal Aviation Administration)
is that pilots cannot drink alcohol within eight hours of a flight,
or have a B.A.C. of .04 or higher.
Judge David Young
described the pilots' behavior as "...absolutely wrong,
outrageous, and horrendous." Hughes was sentenced to 2 1/2
years in the state prison, 2 1/2 years of house arrest (community
control), and 1 year of probation. After prison, he must do 250
hours of community service to include speaking to groups. He must
attend A.A. meetings 5 times per week, and pay a $5,000 fine. He
must attend 1 session of a victim impact panel or the equivalent.
He must write a letter of apology to his children, ages 5 and 8.
He is barred from operating an aircraft for 5 years.
Cloyd was sentenced
to 5 years in the state prison. The judge admonished Cloyd that
he had already had "chances to get help," and that
Hughes had looked up to him as a role model. Hughes even had to
pay the entire bar tab after Cloyd apparently refused.
One of the difficult
areas of this case was whether or not this was a victimless
crime. The prosecutors, Hillah Katz and Deisy Rodriquez, argued
that the airplane passengers were indeed victims even though the
airplane never took off. Some passengers wrote letters describing
how they felt about their experience. They carry fears every time
they board an airplane. Their trust was violated and their
confidence in sky safety was damaged. They are, therefore,
area was in determining whether or not the pilots could actually
be convicted of flying while intoxicated if the airplane never
took off. The pilots were late to the airplane, they rushed
through takeoff procedures, yet took time to smoke a cigarette.
Cloyd got into an argument over his trying to bring a cup of
coffee aboard. The ground crew began towing the airplane to
the runway. The pilots were around 5 or 6 minutes away from
taking off when authorities aborted the process. The pilots'
intent was to take off. There is no doubt, at that point, that
they were NOT going to recognize their impaired ability, turn
back, and place the 124 passengers in better hands.
Were the prosecutors
right in their arguments? The jury thought so. Was the judge
right in sentencing the alcoholic pilots to prison? I will
discuss these questions and more in Part II.
(Written 08/01/05: bibliography available.)
Until we meet