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Was Denver flying without a valid pilot's license?

John Denver was flying without a valid pilot's license after two drunken driving arrests, a federal aviation official said, though investigators found no signs he had been drinking before his fatal crash.

After divers pulled the engine and other wreckage from 40 feet of water on Tuesday, top transportation officials said the folk-pop singer's plane appeared to be sound before the accident.The Federal Aviation Administration pulled Denver's medical certificate - which is required to fly with a pilot's license - on June 13, 1996, said National Transportation Safety Board spokesman George Petterson. A federal regulator in Washington who requested anonymity cited earlier drunken driving charges.

Sheriff Norman Hicks emphasized that the evidence so far indicates Denver was sober when he took off in his privately built Long EZ aircraft Sunday and crashed into Monterey Bay. His body was recovered soon afterward.

"I checked with people that he played golf with from early morning through the entire day, and no one saw him drinking so much as one beer," Hicks said.

The 53-year-old singer, with 1970s hits including "Rocky Mountain High" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders," had two drunken driving arrests in Colorado. He pleaded guilty in a 1993 case and was scheduled for a January trial for an accident in 1994, when he smashed his Porsche into a cluster of trees.

Denver's attorney, Walter Gerash, said that as far as he knows Denver had a valid pilot's license at the time of the crash.

Investigators cautioned that the singer could have applied for reinstatement shortly before the crash. But FAA computer records reviewed by the Associated Press showed Denver had not been listed as having a valid pilot's license since September 1996.