CORRECTED - U.S. passenger plane pilot accused of flying drunk

Thu Mar 17, 2011 4:36pm EDT

(Adds year of incident in first paragraph)

DENVER, March 17 (Reuters) - The first officer of a United Express (UAL.N) flight has been indicted on charges of piloting a commercial airliner while drunk during a flight from Austin, Texas, to Denver in December 2009.

The federal grand jury indictment, returned late on Wednesday against co-pilot Aaron Jason Cope, 32, of Norfolk, Virginia, gave no details of the alleged incident other than to say that United Express Flight 7687 was operated by Shuttle America, Inc.

Jeffrey Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver, gave no information about how or why Cope was suspected of flying under the influence, except to say that: "During the flight, the pilot had concerns."

Dorschner said the plane was not being flown erratically. A source close to the case said, "Passengers were never in danger."

U.S. Attorney John Walsh said special agents of the U.S. Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General, who investigated the alleged crime, "are in the process of locating Cope." (Editing by Xavier Briand)

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