SARASOTA, Fla. - Philip Lavoie, 28, pleaded guilty yesterday to operating an aircraft while under the influence of alcohol. Lavoie faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison.
According to the information and testimony presented in court, Lavoie held a Commercial Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and was an employee of Flight Express, an air cargo company based in Orlando. On December 8, 2012, Lavoie was the pilot and lone occupant of Flight 840, 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.