The director of the Civil Aviation Authority says the finding
a pilot flew carelessly out of Queenstown is a ''powerful
reminder'' to those in the industry.
Graeme Harris said all those involved in civil aviation
needed to ''maintain the highest professional standards in
order to maintain a safe aviation system''. His comments came
after Judge Kevin Phillips issued written findings on charges
laid by the CAA that the 54-year-old Pacific Blue pilot
carelessly operated an aircraft on June 22, 2010.
The matter was subject to a defended hearing over more than
four weeks last year.
Corporate communications manager Mike Richards said the
authority acknowledged the conviction, but would reserve
comment until the pilot, who has interim name suppression, is
sentenced later this month. Judge Phillips' decision
concluded the pilot ''was careless in his operation of the
aircraft and that he occasioned unnecessary endangerment to
the passengers, the crew and the aircraft itself''.
He found the defendant breached the evening civil twilight
departure time of 5.14pm; had left Queenstown for Sydney in
poor light conditions; had breached industry requirements by
not having a suitable contingency plan; and the plane should
not have taken off.
The pilot was flying a Boeing 737, carrying 64 passengers and
five crew, bound for Sydney.
Judge Phillips concluded the CAA's allegations the pilot flew
in cloud below the minimum altitude and in a heavy crosswind
and failed to prepare an anti-ice increment were also
Judge Phillips was also convinced incidents after take-off
were also of a careless manner such as the ''don't sink''
alert from the cockpit at 700ft and a ''bank angle'' alert
after the pilot had corrected the aircraft.
''Each one is on its own some concern, taking into account
the nature of the aircraft and the surrounding terrain and
the proximity of Lake Wakatipu ... The safety margins at the
time were, in my decision, seriously impacted on.''
''Risk avoidance is a priority in aircraft operations and the
burden of risk avoidance falls clearly on the pilot.''
The New Zealand Air Line Pilots' Association was
''disappointed with the guilty verdict''. The association
highlighted the fact the nearly three-year judicial process
had been difficult for the pilot and his Auckland family.
Before the incident, the pilot's commercial career comprised
16,043 hours total flying time, of which 6000 hours were
spent flying a Boeing 737, and 30 years' experience flying in
and out of Queenstown. He faces disqualification as a
commercial pilot and a maximum fine of up to $7000.
Pacific Blue said in a statement last night: ''We have
received the judgement regarding the Pacific Blue pilot and
we are reviewing the document.''
The Boeing 737 departed at 5.25pm, 11 minutes past the
Pacific Blue Evening Civil Twilight limit of 5.14pm.
The pilot departed in conditions with a cloud ceiling below
the required 2300ft.
Crosswinds extended beyond the wet runway limit of 16 knots
prior to take-off, and that crosswinds were 19 knots.
Visual segment for tollgate crossing
The requirements of 10km horizontally and 1500ft above sea
level vertically for a visual segment were not met.
The time of day plus cloud clover resulted in a low light
situation for take-off.
Requirements for a planned figure-of-eight contingency
circuit were not met.
The pilot had not placed wing anti-ice increment and this
could have resulted in reduced obstacle clearance on
climb-out, had the icing conditions been encountered.