NORFOLK, Va. (CBS4) – The airline pilot who allegedly co-piloted a Denver flight while he was intoxicated in 2009 has turned himself in to authorities in Virginia.
Aaron Cope, 32, is a former Denver resident who lives in Norfolk. The United States Attorney’s office in Denver said Friday that he surrendered to U.S. Marshals in Virginia Friday morning.
The attorney’s office indicted him Thursday on charges of “Operation of a Common Carrier Under the Influence of Alcohol.” He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Sources close to the case told CBS4 Investigator Rick Sallinger it was the captain who suspected his co-pilot had been drinking on the flight — a United Express flight that flew from Austin, Texas, to Denver on Dec. 8, 2009.
That captain then apparently radioed ahead to Denver. When the plane arrived at Denver International Airport, the company had a breathalyzer test waiting for Cope.
Sallinger spoke by phone on Thursday with Cope’s wife, who seemed unaware of the circumstances. “We’ve never been told any of that information,” she said in response to word that he’d been indicted.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office wouldn’t elaborate on if or how much time Cope spent at the controls of the United Express flight.
Cope will now make appearances in federal court in Virginia. It’s not clear how soon he will have his first court hearing in Colorado.
Aviation Attorney Tom Byrne told CBS4 the rules surrounding drinking and piloting are very strict.
“You can’t drink within 8 hours of flying — the bottle to the throttle rule is what it’s commonly called in the industry,” he said.