Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

CTV fraudster did have pilot's licence

Gerald Morton Shirtcliff, aka William Anthony Fisher. Photo / File photo
Gerald Morton Shirtcliff, aka William Anthony Fisher. Photo / File photo

Claims the under-fire construction manager of the deadly CTV Building falsely posed as a commercial airline pilot to fly passengers across the South Island appear unfounded, according to official records.

It is the latest allegation to hit convicted fraudster Gerald Morton Shirtcliff, aka William Anthony Fisher, who is already facing an investigations by New Zealand and Australian police.

An internal probe by Engineers Australia has already found the Brisbane-based man had falsely assumed the identity, and a University of Sheffield engineering degree, of former colleague William Anthony Fisher.

Engineers Australia has cancelled 67-year-old Shirtcliff's membership and a University of New South Wales inquiry is ongoing.

Shirtcliff denies all claims.

But the latest accusations he faked a commercial pilot's licence have been cast into doubt by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

Lynly Phillips says she hired a smooth-talking Shirtcliff in 1984 as an experienced commercial pilot for her new airline company flying out of Alexandra, in Central Otago.

She said he "came along at the right time" when she was getting Goldfields Air Limited off the ground and hired him without seeing his documentation.

"We were looking for pilots and he came to us, saying he'd just returned from flying in South Africa, and had done this and this," Mrs Phillips told APNZ from her Christchurch home today.

"We hired him without seeing his commercial pilot's licence, which he said was coming from South Africa, where he had left behind a lot of his stuff."

She believes he was never qualified.

But yesterday, after a query by APNZ, the CAA confirmed that a Gerald Morton Shirtcliff held a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) from 1967 to 1990.

The records show that, as at December 1985, he held an Instrument Class 1 rating, and was recorded as having been rated to fly three aircraft types - Group E, Cessna 336, Beech 58P.

Shirtcliff, jailed in 2005 for a GST fraud, hung up on APNZ when contacted at his Brisbane home and his lawyer David Tucker did not respond to queries.

A spokesman for the CAA said they had not received any formal complaint about a Mr Shirtcliff and made no investigation.

The New Zealand Air Line Pilots Association refused to comment.

Mrs Phillips was still not convinced the CAA records meant he was cleared to fly one of the two planes was in their fleet.

Goldfields had two small planes - a Beechcraft Bonanza 5-seater and a twin-engine Navajo 9-seater - flying passengers, and cargo, from Alexandra to Christchurch, and later, to Nelson.

Shirtcliff flew passengers, mainly in the Beechcraft plane but also in the Navajo, she says, for "a few months" before concerns over his abilities relegated him to "an operational role".

"That's very interesting that you've found that out," she said.

"It means he would've been qualified to fly the Beechcraft, but not the Navajo. I'm certain that he did fly the Navajo, and was taken off it because he wasn't clued up enough to fly it, but I don't have any documentation on that.

"The fact of the matter is, he came to us claiming to be a fully qualified commercial pilot, but we never got any proof."

She says her then-partner Murray Cresswell, had concerns over Shirtcliff's ability, and another one of their pilots described him as "a f****** bush pilot".

Goldfields Air wound up after about six months, and they parted ways.

Just three months later, Shirtcliff was employed by Williams Construction as the construction manager of a new six-storey office block in Christchurch - later to be known as the CTV Building. It collapsed in the February 22, 2011 earthquake, killing 115 people.

"Everyone's life is precious... and so it doesn't sit well with me now... that we hired him without seeing his papers," Mrs Phillips said.

- APNZ

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