Sarasota cargo pilot pleads guilty to flying drunk
TAMPA - A commercial cargo pilot pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to operating a plane while under the influence of alcohol after a December flight from North Carolina to Tampa. Philip Lavoie, 28, of Sarasota, was working for Flight Express, an Orlando air cargo company, and was the lone occupant on Flight 840 out of Greenboro, N.C., on Dec. 8, authorities said. Lavoie was not in contact with traffic controllers for significant periods during the flight, U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill said. Lavoie also changed altitudes without permission and made deviations from his projected flight path, O’Neill said. Controllers alerted Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, which sent two Air Force fighter jets to investigate. However, Lavoie re-established contact with controllers before those jets made contact, O’Neill said.After landing in Tampa, Lavoie failed a voluntary field sobriety test, O’Neill said. Prosecutors said had blood-alcohol levels of 0.272 and 0.274, both above the legal intoxication level in Florida. Lavoie faces a maximum of 15 years in federal prison.