America West Pilots -Not Smart

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
Florida cannot prosecute pilots for allegedly drinking before flight
Judge: Federal law supersedes state law on pilot qualifications
Tuesday, August 5, 2003 Posted: 3:45 PM EDT (1945 GMT)



Thomas Cloyd, right, and Christopher Hughes shown last year.

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

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A federal judge ruled Tuesday that Florida cannot prosecute two former America West pilots for operating an aircraft while allegedly intoxicated because federal law, not Florida law, applies in the case.

A spokesman for the Miami-Dade County state's attorney's office said it would appeal the federal ruling.

Christopher Hughes and Thomas Cloyd have been fired from their jobs with America West Airlines. The pilots were at the controls of their America West jetliner on July 1, 2002, with 124 passengers on board a Miami-to-Phoenix flight when Miami-Dade police recalled the plane and arrested both Cloyd and Hughes.

A security guard had called police after the pilots had gone through a checkpoint.

Federal Judge Patricia Seitz issued a written order upholding the pilots' motion to dismiss the state charges against them. The order said federal law pre-empts state law in the area of pilot qualifications where there is no actual loss of life or injury or damage to property.

"The state lacks jurisdiction to prosecute them for matters that are solely within the jurisdiction of the federal government," she wrote.

The pilots took their case to federal court because they believed FAA regulations superseded Florida law in the area of pilot qualifications and capacity, and because in their employment as pilots they were governed by federal law.

Federal DUI standards also are higher: A .10 percent blood alcohol level, compared with the state standard of .08.

Both Cloyd, who had a blood alcohol level of .091 percent at the time of the flight, and Hughes, who had .084, state officials said, were legally drunk under Florida standards but not under the federal standard.

FAA rules prohibit a pilot to fly with a blood alcholol level greater than .04. Federal law allows criminal prosecution at .10.

"Obviously, this is not the decision we had wished and we will be appealing the decision," said Ed Griffith, spokesman for Miami-Dade State's Attorney Katherine Rundle, who was out of town.

Defense attorneys for Cloyd and Hughes issued a joint statement saying, "Mr. Cloyd and Mr. Hughes are very grateful and very pleased with the court's ruling today."
 

naunga

New Member
What's not smart about this?

The pilots are pretty smart here. There are stacks of legal presedence that the FAA has sole jurisdiction over pilots, planes, and airspace in the United States.

Look at what the AOPA just did with Michigan's background check law.

The only problem here would be if they didn't meet the 8 hours bottle to throttle rule, but then again they weren't able to fly so they probably will be covered there. They could argue that they had not made a go-no-go decision before they were taken off the plane.

Now, I'm certainly not defending them, but the FAR's are the law of the land for pilots. If they didn't violate them then nothing should happen.

Cheers.

Naunga
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
Not Smart...Let's see:
1. The pilots were at the controls of their America West jetliner on July 1, 2002, with 124 passengers on board a Miami-to-Phoenix flight when Miami-Dade police recalled the plane and arrested both Cloyd and Hughes. (they were taxing the plane for departure when called back)
2. Both Cloyd, who had a blood alcohol level of .091 percent at the time of the flight, and Hughes, who had .084
3. FAA rules prohibit a pilot to fly with a blood alcholol level greater than .04
4. How could they beat the 8 hr rule? They were at the controls and did not go back the the gate on their decision. They were called back.

Is that enough.......
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Just a couple of points here. The 8-hour rule and the "no more than .04 blood alcohol content" rule are mutually exclusive rules.

You can't drink a 1.75L bottle of scotch 12 hours before a flight and be legal because you didn't consume within 8 hours of flying. I'm sure your BAC would be more than .04 12 hours later.

Conversely, a glass of wine probably (rough guess) wouldn't register in your blood test 6 hours later, but you're still in total violation of the 8 hours 'bottle to throttle' rule even though no alcohol may be present in your system whatsoever.
 

naunga

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
1. The pilots were at the controls of their America West jetliner on July 1, 2002, with 124 passengers on board a Miami-to-Phoenix flight when Miami-Dade police recalled the plane and arrested both Cloyd and Hughes. (they were taxing the plane for departure when called back)


[/ QUOTE ]
Okay, I'll back peddal a bit. I didn't realize that they were taxiing. Thought they were just sitting at the gate.

[ QUOTE ]
3. FAA rules prohibit a pilot to fly with a blood alcholol level greater than .04

[/ QUOTE ]
Okay, I missed that part in the article.

Well, so perhaps you're right not very smart, but then again if they're just trying to dodge criminal prosecution then going Federal is the way to go, since as the article states, the Federal limit for prosecution is 0.10.

[ QUOTE ]
4. How could they beat the 8 hr rule?

[/ QUOTE ]
If their last drink was at 12 AM and they got to the plane at or after 8 AM.

Again, I'm not defending them at all. It was totally careless and probably violates a ton of FAR's that really having nothing specifically to do with drinking. I'm actually marveling at the legal manuvering that they're attempting.

I mean think about it, if they manage to get the case into Federal Court they cannot be convicted of a DUI, which means all they did, in the eyes of the law, was bust a FAR (or two) which may not result in a permanent loss of their certificates. In fact they may not lose their certificates at all, but rather their medicals. So after a little AA and medical and psych exams they could potentially be back in the air. Albeit probably not with an airline.

And even if they were convicted of a DUI the FAA has said on numerous occasions that a single DUI conviction will not necessarily keep you from flying.

IMHO, convicted or not, they probably should lose their certificates forever. But it's amazing how many loopholes there are in our laws, and even more amazing is the lawyers who know how to exploit them.

Cheers.

Naunga
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
O.K. Then, from your point, if they are trying to beat the DUI rap, then they/or their attorneys are smart. As far as everything else, not too smart.
 

ClipperPilot

New Member
I sort of feel bad for them, i know what they did was wrong, but their careers are over as far as the cockpit is concerned. Imagine if all you ever wanted to be was an airline pilot, since you were a kid, you finally made it, but then you make a bad judgement call and have a little too much fun. It's all over.
 

EatSleepFly

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
And even if they were convicted of a DUI the FAA has said on numerous occasions that a single DUI conviction will not necessarily keep you from flying.


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Ain't that the truth. I know a former instructor who has a pretty shady past, got a DWI (thats what NY calls them) for driving with a .11 BAC, and now has a very cushy job flying a decked out turbine Twin Commander. No matter though, if he hasn't already (and last I heard, he was close), he will end his career one way or another. The guy's a moron who got a sweet job basically handed to him.
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I sort of feel bad for them, i know what they did was wrong, but their careers are over as far as the cockpit is concerned.

[/ QUOTE ]

Not trying to start an argument, but don't you think that they should have considered their careers before going on a binge the night before the flight??

It was well documented when this story broke that these two guys had consumed an outrageous amount of alcohol.

Not very intelligent if you are going to be in control of a metal tube hurtling 36,000 ft. above the Earth at 500 mph with 125 people on board the next morning.

I don't feel sorry for them in the least. They made their decision and will have to live with the consequences.

[ QUOTE ]
Imagine if all you ever wanted to be was an airline pilot, since you were a kid, you finally made it, but then you make a bad judgement call and have a little too much fun. It's all over.

[/ QUOTE ]

Again - you cannot make that bad of a judgement call in the aviation industry. You just can't.

Not just careers, but LIVES depend on your judgement. One "bad" one - like these two made could have killed. Thankfully, it didn't.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I think they made that move to avoid criminal prosecution. They will lose their certs, just not go to jail.
 

ready2fly

Well-Known Member
Let me clarify then - their attorneys legal strategy = smart.

Their decision to try and fly the day after partying hard = not smart.
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
Exactly, this is one career where you CANNOT make that bad of a judgement call. I don't feel soory for them one bit. They should consider themselves lucky that the security screeners ahd the courage to call the police. They stopped what could have been a very tragic situation.
 

H46Bubba

Well-Known Member
The only thing good about the story was that the federal juditial system is doing it's job and ruling that the state doesn't have jurisdiction over a something federally controlled, such as aviation. Now the FAA needs to grow some balls and go after the rest of those states that what to restrict GA, with the biggest culprit being the mayor of Chicago!
 

ClipperPilot

New Member
Yeah, your right, it was their fault and I am not taking their side at all, I agree with you 100% about the decision making process and that they obviously didnt think about the realistic consequences of their job. I would go in depression if i couldnt have the cockpit is what i am trying to get accross, although, for pilots upgrading, there's two more seniority numbers
And two more open slots for the right seat. I guess if they really loved their careers and took them seriously as they should, they would still be flying today.
 

StevenL

New Member
The question I have is this. Say they didn't violate the 8 hour rule. The state of Florida apparently must have given the guys a breathalyzer or blood test to get their BAC. Since the Federal Judge ruled the state of Florida does not have jurisdiction, what happens to the BAC results? Would these BAC results be admissible in a Federal Court? My guess is they will still be able to use them, but I don't know.

Also, here's an interesting article about a pilot that's been through this.

avweb article
 

JEP

Malko In Charge
Staff member
great article, being in NWA's main hub this story was all over the place when it happened. Like he said, he i one of the luckiest people their is to get that second chance.
 

secretapproach

New Member
[ QUOTE ]
Also, here's an interesting article about a pilot that's been through this.

avweb article

[/ QUOTE ]

I grew up in Fargo and one summer many moons ago I worked at the hotel that had the NWA contract. I worked at the front desk and did van runs to the airport to pick up NWA crews. The "Speak Easy" restaurant was right across from the hotel, both of which are not even in North Dakota, but across the border in Moorhead, MN. They always mentioned the "infamous" "Speak Easy" in reverent tones.
 
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