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Former Commercial Airline Pilot Sentenced for Operating a Common Carrier Under the Influence of Alcohol

On November 4, 2011, Aaron J. Cope of Norfolk, Virginia, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Denver, Colorado, for operating a common carrier under the influence of alcohol.  Mr. Cope was sentenced to serve six months imprisonment, six months home detention and two years of supervised release.  In lieu of a fine, he was ordered to complete 120 hours of community service and pay a $100 special assessment.  

Mr. Cope served as the second-in-command (co-pilot) of a United Express flight that departed Austin, Texas, on December 8, 2009, bound for Denver, Colorado.  Upon arrival in Denver, it was reported to officials of the operating carrier, Shuttle America, that Mr. Cope smelled of alcohol and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol.  Arrangements were made to obtain a breath alcohol specimen from Mr. Cope at the Denver airport. 

Mr. Cope was presumed to be under the influence of alcohol while operating the commercial aircraft based on the subsequent analysis of his blood alcohol content.  The flight he co-piloted that day included 48 passengers and four crew members.  Mr. Cope was terminated by Shuttle America on December 9, 2010.  In January 2010, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order of revocation of Mr. Cope's pilot license and medical certificate.  This is an ongoing investigation being conducted with assistance from FAA.