America West fires pilots accused of drinking
PHOENIX, Arizona (CNN) -- America West Airlines sent termination letters Tuesday to two pilots police say failed Breathalyzer tests as they prepared to fly a jet full of passengers Monday morning, a company spokesman said.
However, Jim Sabourin, the airline's vice president of corporate communications, said that because Capt. Thomas Cloyd, 44, and First Officer Christopher Hughes, 41, belong to a union, they are entitled to a due process appeal of their firings.
The company has a zero-tolerance policy that does not allow any alcohol use by pilots within 12 hours of a flight.
Cloyd and Hughes were charged with operating an aircraft and driving under the influence Monday at Miami International Airport after failing a Breathalyzer test, airline officials and Miami-Dade police said.
The two pilots were in uniform and scheduled to fly America West Flight 556 from Miami to Phoenix at 10:38 a.m. EDT.
A screener at an airport checkpoint stopped the two as they attempted to carry cups of beverages, thought to be coffee, through the metal detector. When the screener told them no open containers were allowed, "They became belligerent, and the checker called their supervisor," said Miami-Dade Det. Joey Giordano.
The two pilots continued to walk and went to the plane. "A supervisor called police, and we got out to the plane. But by the time we arrived, the plane had already taxied out," said Giordano.
Giordano said police contacted the Miami airport's control tower, which ordered the aircraft to return to the gate.
Police boarded the flight and administered field sobriety tests to the pilots. Both agreed to Breathalyzer and blood alcohol tests, which police say showed Cloyd with a blood-alcohol level of .091 and Hughes with an .084, police said. The legal limit for operating an automobile in Florida is .08.
The pilots were taken to a jail, booked and later released on bond.
In Washington, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency will investigate to determine if any enforcement action is warranted.
Cloyd has worked for America West since 1990, and Hughes has worked for the airline since January 1999, according to a company spokeswoman.
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