Pilot denies liftoff in fog was careless flying

A pilot faces a careless-flying charge after a foggy Hawke's Bay Airport takeoff in conditions a prosecutor says weren't within "a country mile" of those under which he would have been allowed to fly.

The claims were made yesterday at the start of a Napier District Court trial in which John Hilton Tucker, of Waipukurau, denies the charge and an alternative, laid under Civil Aviation regulations, relating to an Air Napier mail run flight to Gisborne on September 24, 2011.

The 6.09am Piper Cherokee takeoff was witnessed and reported by crew of an Air Nelson crew whose own flight, operated for Air New Zealand, was delayed till 7.30am because of the fog.

Prosecuting for the Civil Aviation Authority is Rotorua barrister Fletcher Pilditch, while Russell Fairbrother, of Napier, appears for Tucker, who denies the charges. The hearing before Judge Tony Adeane is expected to take at least three days.

Mr Pilditch said Air Traffic Control had not started its "watch" at the time of the takeoff, alleged to have been in conditions with horizontal visibility of less than 200 metres along the runway, and vertical visibility of less than 200ft.

Minimum conditions allowing takeoff would have been horizontal visibility of 1500m and 300ft vertical.

The nature of the conditions was indicated by delays to the later commercial flight, despite the superior and more specialist training of its crew and greater instrument capability, which would have permitted a takeoff by that aircraft in close to nil visibility.

Evidence included witness accounts and expert opinions, and audio of an interview in which Tucker said he would talk of fluctuating conditions enabling him to complete the takeoff, Mr Pilditch said.


- Hawkes Bay Today

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