Testimony Ends In Trial Of Two AmWest Pilots Accused Of Trying
To Fly Drunk
In the end, attorneys for former
America West pilot Thomas Cloyd and his copilot, Christopher
Hughes, called just one witness: the operator of a tug that pulled
them from the gate before their Airbus A319 was stopped and boarded
by law officers.
When the law left the aircraft, they had Cloyd and Hughes in
tow, suspecting both pilots of trying to fly drunk.
It happened July 1st, 2002, after what prosecutors paint as a
long night of drinking by Cloyd and Hughes at a sports bar in
Miami. Neither pilot denies the binge. Neither denies he was
probably under the influence when Franklin Tejada used his tug to
push their A319 from the gate.
So what's the beef? It's a unique defense -- Cloyd and Hughes
maintain they weren't in control of the aircraft when they were
arrested and therefore can't be convicted of operating the aircraft
while under the influence of alcohol.
Tejada told the Miami federal jury Monday that he clearly
remembers the engines were shut down and the nosewheel steering
mechanism was disengaged as he towed the aircraft from parking.
"Is the plane moving itself?" asked defense lawyer Daniel
Foodmanm quoted by the Associated Press.
"No," Tejada said. "I was the one
pushing the plane."
Score one for the defense.
But under cross-examination, Tejada admitted one important
"You don't do anything unless it's under the command of the
pilot, correct?" asked prosecutor Hillah Katz, also quoted by
"Yes," Tejada replied.
So much for racking up points for the defense.
The case now goes to the jury, which has already heard about the
long night of drinking. Members also heard a toxicologist testify
both men had blood-alcohol levels above Florida's 0.08 legal limit
after they were removed from the flight.
Both men were fired from America West after the incident. Both
lost their commercial pilots' licenses. If convicted, both men
could face up to five years in federal prison.