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Flight Express Pilot Pleads Guilty Of Being Intoxicated On Flight 840
By Mike Mitchell

June 7, 2013 - A Flight Express pilot, Phillip Yves Lavoie, 28 pled guilty in U.S. District Court Tampa on Tuesday to operating a common carrier, aircraft under the influence of alcohol. Lavoie waived his right to be charged by way of an indictment before a federal grand jury. He could be sentenced to 15 years, a fine of up to $250,000 and restitution. 

On December 8, 2012, Lavoie was an employee of Flight Express, an air cargo company based in Orlando. Lavoie was the pilot of Flight 840, the lone occupant of a Cessna 210 airplane which departed from Greensboro, North Carolina for Tampa.


Just after takeoff, air traffic control reported Lavoie went NORDO ("No Radio") and was not in contact with FAA tower personnel for a period of approximately an hour. Charleston, South Carolina air traffic controllers first got into contact with the flight that afternoon and when they tried to hand him over to the next flight controller area, they got no radio response back from Lavoie.

They also noticed that he had descended on his own, without tower approval, to an altitude of 5000 feet and had also made a slight deviation from his projected flight path. Charleston notified relevant FAA authorities of the possible suspicious deviations of the flight and of the fact that the plane was out of radio contact.

Savannah tower controllers noted that it was still out of radio contact and that the pilot had descended even further, without authorization, to an altitude of 4000 feet. They notified Jacksonville air traffic controllers of the situation. FAA controllers also alerted the authorities at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida and they dispatched two jet fighters to investigate and attempt to establish contact with the plane in the air.



The jets from Tyndall were dispatched but did not ultimately come into contact with the Flight Express plane. Lavoie had come back onto the air at that time and reestablished contact with the Jacksonville air traffic controllers. Jacksonville air traffic controllers were still unable to get an adequate explanation from Lavoie as to why he had been off the radio and had changed altitude without permission. The flight landed in Tampa at the airport.

FAA officials in Tampa had been alerted to this incident and FAA Flight inspector Paul Kahier met the plane after it landed. After Lavoie got out of the plane, Kahler asked for his airman's certificate and medical certificate. As he was standing by Lavoie, Kahler detected the smell of alcohol on his breath. He also noticed Lavole's bloodshot eyes. Kahier then asked if Lavoie would be willing to submit to a voluntary field sobriety test. Lavoie agreed and failed the test which Tampa Police officers administered to him at the scene.

The officers then asked Lavoie if he would be willing to submit to a breathalyzer test. Lavoie agreed and was transported to the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office for a breathalyzer test. The results of two separate tests of his blood alcohol were 0.272 (at 3:58 PM) and 0.274 (at 4:01 PM), both well above the intoxication level in the state of Florida.
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