updated 7/8/2004 2:28:47 PM ET 2004-07-08T18:28:47

A federal grand jury has indicted two America West pilots who were fired for allegedly being drunk in the cockpit just before takeoff.

The indictment released Thursday charges pilot Thomas Cloyd and co-pilot Christopher Hughes with being under the influence of alcohol while operating an airplane.

Both pilots were appealing similar state charges; they were expected to make their first court appearance later Thursday.

Cloyd and Hughes were accused of taking the controls of a jetliner after a night of heavy drinking in 2002. Officials said 124 passengers were aboard as the pilots left a gate at Miami International Airport.

Authorities stopped the plane after security guards reported smelling alcohol on the pilots, and the jet returned to the gate before takeoff.

The pilots’ blood-alcohol results were above the state drunkenness standard of 0.08 percent but below the federal criminal standard of 0.10 percent. A federal conviction would still be possible if a jury found evidence of impairment.

After the incident, Cloyd and Hughes were fired and stripped of their commercial licenses. As a bail condition, they also were barred from recreational flying.

Lawyers for the pilots declined to comment on the indictment Thursday.

The state charged both pilots, and a Florida appeals court has upheld prosecution.

But a federal judge sided with the pilots by ruling that Congress carved out aviation safety as an area of federal jurisdiction. An appeal on that issue remained undecided.

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