MIAMI – A federal grand jury has indicted two America West (search) pilots who were fired for allegedly being drunk in the cockpit just before takeoff.
The pilots were appealing similar state charges; they pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday. Both were allowed to go free on $100,000 bail.
Cloyd, 46, and Hughes, 43, 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 (search).
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.
Both were given court-appointed attorneys after testifying they could not afford lawyers because of their protracted legal battle.
"He's entitled to a presumption of innocence, and that's it," said James Rubin, who represented Hughes.
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.