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Intoxicated pilot who landed in Tampa sentenced to probation

TAMPA — A pilot who landed a small cargo plane at Tampa International Airport while heavily intoxicated was sentenced this week to four years of probation and eight months of house arrest.

Phillip Yves Lavoie, 28, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.27 percent after a Dec. 8 round trip flight from Tampa to Greensboro, N.C., court records show. Federal law presumes impairment at 0.10 percent, and the Federal Aviation Administration imposes an even stricter standard of 0.04 percent.

U.S. District Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich also fined Lavoie $2,000 and ordered him to attend an alcohol treatment program.

He came to court having already completed a residential program and with a track record of attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. His attorney, Summer Goldman, wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Lavoie was "deeply dedicated to his sobriety" and that an alcohol monitor had demonstrated his abstinence.

He pleaded guilty in June to operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol. The charge potentially carried a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment, but Lavoie, with no prior record, wound up on the low end of the guideline range, which recommended as little as eight months.

"She's letting him do that on home detention," Goldman said Thursday.

Lavoie, a former St. Petersburg resident who now lives with his father in Sarasota, carried no passengers on the Cessna 210.

He initially drew notice when air traffic controllers couldn't reach him by radio. On the ground, he cried when confronted. After flying since age 15, he surrendered his airman certificates April 30.

Air traffic controller Leander White was among those who wrote letters of support this month to the court. He told of watching Lavoie, as a teen, work tirelessly to earn a pilot's license. White said he understands the seriousness of Lavoie's offense.

"I also know that Mr. Lavoie understands how serious an offense he committed," White wrote. "It took him several weeks before he could muster the courage to tell me what he had done."

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

Intoxicated pilot who landed in Tampa sentenced to probation 09/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 10:37pm]
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