Pilot charged over Queenstown departure

A pilot has been charged with flying a Boeing 737 passenger jet out of Queenstown airport after the dusk deadline for departures.

The pilot, who has name suppression, allegedly caused unnecessary danger to the 140 Sydney-bound passengers and crew aboard when he took off in darkness on June 22, 2010.

The Civil Aviation Authority has brought charges against the pilot, claiming he "operated an aircraft in a careless manner'' in breach of Section 43A of the Civil Aviation Act, which carries a maximum penalty of $7000.

The Queenstown runway is surrounded by The Remarkables mountain range and has no radar or runway lights.

CAA rules say that planes leaving the airport must depart no later than 30 minutes before twilight as a precaution.

The trial, which started this morning at Queenstown District Court, is set down for two weeks.

The pilot has been suspended on full pay since the incident but if found guilty, could have his flying licence revoked.

A spokeswoman for the Civil Aviation Authority said today: "It is a serious charge.''

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