06/20/2011 01:51 pm ET Updated Aug 20, 2011

Aaron Cope, Former United Express Pilot, Found Guilty Of Flying Under The Influence Of Alcohol

DENVER, June 17 (Reuters) - A former airline pilot was found guilty on Friday of flying under the influence of alcohol when he was second-in-command of a United Express flight.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim pronounced Aaron Cope guilty in a 15-page decision issued after a non-jury trial in Denver. Cope, 32, of Norfolk, Virginia, was co-pilot on the December 2009 flight from Austin to Denver of a regional jet with a 70-passenger capacity.

"The court finds the evidence overwhelming that Cope was under the influence of alcohol during the flight," Tunheim wrote in the decision.

"It is extremely fortunate, particularly for the passengers of Flight 7687, that there is no evidence of Cope making poor decisions, affecting safety," the judge stated.

The plane Cope was co-piloting during the flight was operated by Shuttle America, a unit of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc.

A date for Cope's sentencing has not been set. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

United Airlines is a unit of United Continental Holdings (UAL.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).

(Reporting by Robert Boczkiewicz: Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Peter Bohan)