Video: Pilots found guilty

updated 6/8/2005 4:49:47 PM ET 2005-06-08T20:49:47

Two former America West pilots were convicted Wednesday of being drunk in the cockpit after an all-night drinking binge.

They face up to five years in prison on the charge of operating an aircraft while drunk. Both men bowed their heads when the verdict was read after a two-week trial and jury deliberations over parts of two days.

Pilot Thomas Cloyd and co-pilot Christopher Hughes were arrested July 1, 2002, as their Phoenix-bound jet was being pushed back from its gate at Miami International Airport.

Police ordered the plane to turn back and arrested the pilots after security screeners smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Hughes, and Cloyd got in an argument over his attempts to bring aboard a cup of coffee.

The pilots had 14 beers between them at a bar the night before the flight, closing out their $122 tab at about 4:40 a.m. — roughly six hours before their flight was to depart. Hours later, they registered blood-alcohol levels above Florida’s 0.08 legal limit.

The pilots maintained they were not operating the aircraft because it was being pushed by a runway tug and its steering was disengaged at the time it was ordered back to the terminal. They were fired by America West after their arrests and lost their commercial pilot’s licenses.

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