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Fired pilots plead innocent to flying plane under influence of alcohol

Christopher Hughes, left, and Thomas Cloyd
Christopher Hughes, left, and Thomas Cloyd  

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- Two fired America West pilots formally entered pleas of not guilty Monday to charges of operating an aircraft under the influence of alcohol.

The two men, pilot Thomas Cloyd and co-pilot Christopher Hughes, were represented by their attorneys and did not appear for the brief hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Richard Margolius.

The two had filed paperwork last week indicating they would plead not guilty to the charges.

They will be required to attend a hearing August 1 when the prosecutor in the case, Assistant State Attorney Ronald Ramsingh, said he will seek to have the bond of the two men revoked because they left Florida.

They had been released on $7,000 bond each and returned to America West's home base in Arizona after being arrested July 1, when a screener complained the two were drinking.

Complaints/arrest affidavits: Thomas Cloyd and Christopher Hughes  (FindLaw document, PDF format)

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An attorney described their leaving the state as a mix-up, saying the two men went home to Arizona after being cleared to do so by their bail bondman and did not intend to violate any court orders.

On August 5, another hearing will be held to set a trial date. William Pearson, the attorney for Cloyd, said the defense team may consider a plea deal in the future, but added it depends solely on what offer the prosecutor might make.

No offer of a deal has been made or discussed, he said. Pearson said the men want to get their pilot's licenses and jobs back.

America West has a no-tolerance policy that does not allow any alcohol use by pilots within 12 hours of a flight. The airline fired the two pilots a day after they failed Breathalyzer tests and charges were filed against them.

The two pilots were in uniform and scheduled to fly America West Flight 556 from Miami to Phoenix the night of July 1. A screener stopped the two as they attempted to carry cups of beverages through a metal detector. The screener called police, who said the plane had taxied away from the terminal when they arrived.

The plane was ordered back and tests showed Cloyd had a blood-alcohol level of .091 and Hughes had a .084, police said. The legal limit for operating a vehicle in Florida is .08.

Cloyd had worked for America West since 1990. Hughes had worked for the airline since January 1999.

An aviation safe inspector, Scott Petagna, was in the courtroom during the hearing. He said he was there simply to observe the case.




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