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Sarasota man pleads guilty to operating aircraft under the influence

12:20 PM, Jun 14, 2013   |    comments
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Sarasota, Florida -- A 28-year-old Sarasota man pleaded guilty to operating a carrier plane while under the influence of alcohol.

According to evidence presented in court, on Deb. 8, 2012, Philip Lavoie was the pilot and lone occupant of Flight 840 for Flight Express -- an air cargo company based in Orlando -- which departed from Greensboro, North Carolina and was on the way back to Tampa.

Air traffic tower personnel observed that after takeoff, Lavoie had gone silent on his radio and was not in contact with them for significant periods during his flight.

Lavoie also changed the altitude at which he was flying without the controllers' permission and made deviations from his projected flight path. FAA controllers later alerted the authorities at Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, whereby two jet fighters were dispatched to investigate and attempt to establish contact with Lavoie's plane. The Air Force jets never came into contact with the Flight Express plane because Lavoie ultimately re-established contact with air traffic controllers.

After landing in Tampa, Lavoie failed a voluntary field sobriety test. Later, he submitted to a breathalyzer test. The results of two separate tests of his blood alcohol were 0.272  and 0.274. Both results exceeded the legal intoxication level in the State of Florida.

Lavoie faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.

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