Federal prosecutors have filed charges against a Flight Express pilot, saying he was drunk while at the controls of a plane.

Phillip Yves Lavoie, 28, faces charges of operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol.

He could face 15 years in prison.

The pilot was headed south to Tampa International Airport on Dec. 8 when his Cessna 210 lost communication with air traffic controllers and started losing altitude over South Carolina.

The Federal Aviation Administration alerted Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, which dispatched two fighter jets, but the plane eventually landed safely at TIA.

Prosecutors say, more than two hours after the flight, his blood alcohol level was at .27 percent, far above the .04 percent limit the Federal Aviation Administration places on pilots.

Bay News 9's coverage partner, the Tampa Bay Times, says Lavoie's attorney said the pilot drank before leaving Tampa, flew to North Carolina, dropped off cargo, refueled and headed back to Tampa.

The Times says court records show FAA flight inspector Paul Kahle, met the plane when it landed, asked for Lavoie's flight credentials and detected the smell of alcohol.

The records say Lavoie voluntarily submitted to field sobriety and blood alcohol tests.

The Times says Lavoie's driving record shows officers cited him for having an open alcohol container in his vehicle in Sarasota in 2005 and for careless driving in 2003.

Adjudication was withheld and he has no DUI arrests or criminal record in Florida.

He is scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge on June 13.

If the magistrate judge accepts a guilty plea, a U.S. district judge would later sentence Lavoie.