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United Express Pilot Indicted For Flying After Drinking

Regional Airline First Officer Faces Possible 15 Year Prison Sentence

Aaron Jason Cope, age 32, of Norfolk, VA, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Colorado late Wednesday on one count of operation of a common carrier under the influence of alcohol.

According to the indictment, on December 8, 2009, Cope unlawfully operated and directed the operation of an commercial aircraft while under the influence of alcohol. Cope was second in command, meaning he was the co–pilot and first officer, on United Express Flight #7687, operated by Shuttle America, Inc. The flight went from Austin, Texas, to Denver, Colorado.

“The message this case sends is simple, pilots who drink and fly will be prosecuted and face incarceration,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a news release Thursday. Walsh made the announcement in conjunction with U.S. DOT, Office of the Inspector General Special Agent in Charge Max Smith. DOT IG Special Agents are in the process of locating Cope.
           
“The Inspector General and DOT take aviation safety very seriously," said Smith. "Those who have been granted the privilege of being issued a commercial pilot’s license have an obligation to the public they serve and those who violate the public trust will be dealt with appropriately under the law.”

If convicted, Cope faces not more than 15 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine. This case is being investigated by the Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General, and the FAA, with full cooperation by Shuttle America. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Mackey and Mark Pestal.

Walsh said these charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

FMI: www.justice.gov/usao/co/

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