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Cargo Pilot Faces Charges Of Flying Drunk 

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A cargo pilot whose behavior last December while flying a Cessna 210 out of Greensboro for Tampa International Airport prompted authorities to scramble fighters and (later) a blood alcohol test has entered treatment, his lawyer said Wednesday. The blood of pilot Phillip Yves Lavoie, 28, showed an alcohol content of 0.27 percent in a test administered after he'd landed and spoken with investigators for 2.5 hours, according to court documents. The FAA sets a limit for flying an aircraft at 0.04 blood alcohol content (BAC) -- a limit that can drop to 0.02 BAC under certain conditions. The trouble began when controllers noticed Lavoie had become unresponsive while flying the return leg to Tampa International Airport and the Cessna he was flying began to descend. Lavoie has been charged with operating a common carrier while under the influence of alcohol and he has submitted a plea agreement that includes details of his flight.

According to an account of the event signed by Lavoie as part of his plea agreement, he descended without approval out of 5,000 feet and deviated slightly from his intended route of flight. He was unresponsive to controllers' attempts to contact him during a handoff and the FAA alerted Tyndall Air Force Base, Panama City, which launched two fighters. But Lavoie contacted controllers at Jacksonville before he was intercepted by the fighters. Failing to explain his radio silence, authorities arranged to have the plane met by an FAA flight inspector upon landing. The inspector smelled alcohol on Lavoie's breath. Airport police became involved and their incident report stated the pilot "was crying and had the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his person," Tampabay.com reported. Lavoie's lawyer said the pilot, who completed two takeoffs and landings that night, "truly has an alcohol problem ... had one ... and he's taking the steps to correct that."  Lavoie's next court date is June 13, with sentencing to follow. The charges could result in a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

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