Wanaka paraglider fined $1500 for flight offer

A Wanaka man has been convicted and fined $1500 for offering a tandem paragliding flight for payment without holding a commercial operator’s certificate.

Jan Necas (32), a Czech national who has lived in New Zealand since 2016, had his application for a discharge without conviction refused by Judge Michelle Duggan in the Queenstown District Court yesterday.

On November 17 last year, Necas offered the flight to a woman for $100 plus $15 for petrol.

He agreed to meet the woman, a CAA employee posing as a backpacker, at a flying site near Queenstown two days later.

After she paid him, and as they were about to take off, he was approached by two CAA investigators, who also found his canopy’s warrant of fitness had expired three months earlier.

Judge Duggan said the defendant was warned by the CAA in June last year about advertising for flights.

Necas was told he needed an adventure aviation operator certificate if he wanted to charge more than $10 a flight.

He was charged with operating a paraglider for reward while knowing he needed an adventure aviation operator certificate to do so, and operating a paraglider without a current warrant of fitness.

The first charge has a maximum penalty of 12 months’ prison and a $10,000 fine.

Necas’ counsel, Alice Milne, said he was remorseful and had made a donation to the Lakes District Air Rescue Trust.

A conviction would jeopardise his ability to find work in the industry in New Zealand and overseas, Ms Milne said.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) counsel Chris Macklin said a conviction would make it more difficult for the defendant to find work in the industry, but that was not a disproportionate impact.

‘‘He should expect more scrutiny if he’s been breaking the rules.’’

When the woman paid him, he told her ‘‘don’t mention the money’’ to anyone, and he had other clients booked for that afternoon.

Although a very skilled pilot, the defendant had not been through the compliance regime for an operator’s certificate, so his systems, maintenance and procedures were lacking.

Judge Duggan said the defendant may have been struggling financially after losing his job because of Covid-19, but all paragliding operators in Queenstown had been affected.

While they continued to pay the costs of certification, he was ‘‘undercutting’’ them.

She was not satisfied a conviction would prevent him from getting a commercial licence to operate in the future.

He was convicted on the charge of operating without a certificate - the second charge is an infringement matter - and ordered to pay the fine.

guy.williams@odt.co.nz

 

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