Chopper outside limits, court hears

A helicopter that crashed in Central Otago in 2016, causing the death of Otautau man Liam Edwards, was operating outside legally allowed centre of gravity limits at the time, a court has heard.

Wanaka Helicopters owner Simon Spencer-Bower was giving evidence in the Queenstown District Court yesterday in the trial of Athol man Kelvyn Sarginson.

Sarginson was flying the Robinson R22 when it crashed in foggy conditions near the Lindis Pass on April 30, 2016. Mr Edwards (32) died soon afterwards and Sarginson was seriously injured.

Mr Spencer-Bower, one of the most experienced Robinson R22 pilots in the world, said any significant deviation from its centre of gravity affected its handling.

A 20-litre fuel container on the aircraft at the time of the crash must have been on the floor in front of a seat, as his test had shown it was not possible to put it under a seat.

That would have further contributed to a ``very forward'' centre of gravity.

He had estimated the helicopter's weight at the time of the crash at 1430 pounds (648kg) when the maximum allowable weight was 1370 pounds (621kg).

Sarginson is being prosecuted by the Civil Aviation Authority, which says there were ``two fundamental failures'' in his actions - he overloaded the Robinson R22 and flew it in poor visibility.

He is facing four charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and one charge under the Civil Aviation Act.

He is also charged under the Civil Aviation Act with operating an aircraft in a manner that exposed a passenger to unnecessary danger.

The trial, which is being heard by Judge Bernadette Farnan, continues today.