Bevan Hurley

Bevan Hurley is the Herald on Sunday chief reporter.

Sacked instructor has a chequered history

Ravendra Pal Singh compares himself to Jesus Christ. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Ravendra Pal Singh compares himself to Jesus Christ. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Captain Ravendra Pal Singh, convicted of assaulting two student pilots in a cockpit 1500ft above the ground, compares himself to Jesus Christ.

"I have had a very glorious past in various countries," he says. "Even Christ was crucified for something he did not do."

He claims to have fought wars, counts among his personal friends the president of Botswana, and constantly refers to himself as "one of the best pilots in the world".

However, the Herald on Sunday can reveal:

• He was blamed for pilot error over an emergency landing in 2006 with three students on board.

• Was fired from Massey University's School of Aviation, though he claims he later received a payout.

• A Civil Aviation Authority investigation found the former Indian Air Force wing commander was so domineering of the young students at his Palmerston North-based Wings Flight Training school that they lived in fear of him.

Documents released under the Official Information Act show that the CAA had been aware of problems at the flight school since February 2008.

They describe a culture of hierarchy in which students were put down and Singh was the chief flying instructor, seen as a god by them.

In December 2009, the two students and two instructors went to the CAA to complain about assaults by Singh.

The CAA interviewed a student, who did not want to make a statement to police.

Then a year later, another whistleblower at the training school alleged to the CAA that Singh was altering flying records.

Two versions of the daily flight records were found by investigators.

More students came forward to report further assaults. This information was passed to the Qualifications Authority, which continued to grant Singh marks of "excellence" until mid-2011.

In the forced landing of December 2006 with three students on board, his Partenevia P68 aircraft lost power in one engine through fuel starvation.

A report into the crash stated that Singh's mishandling of the power loss caused a partial power loss in the second engine, forcing it to land in a paddock near Waipukurau.

The following year Singh was pictured asleep during a training flight, a picture which was circulated on Facebook by students.

Singh said the picture was taken during a flight by a senior student who was supposed to be flying solo.

The CAA investigators were unimpressed with Singh's responses to their many concerns, and cancelled his pilot licence in November 2011. They wrote: "Even when presented with evidence to the contrary, Mr Singh was reluctant to accept that there were any problems in relation to flight time recording, training provided to students or the culture at Wings Flight Training."

Singh, who will be sentenced for the two assaults this month, was this week still defiant.

"There are a lot of people out there that are wanting to destroy me.

"I have fought in wars and I know, a man cannot die two times, he can die only once."

- Herald on Sunday

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