Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

By Celia Crosbie of Mountain Scene

Roderick Gunn in court today. Photo / Mountain Scene
Roderick Gunn in court today. Photo / Mountain Scene

A pilot who operated a commercial passenger jet in a careless manner in Queenstown has been fined $5100 and must do extensive retraining.

In Queenstown District Court this morning Judge Kevin Phillips also lifted the name suppression of Auckland-based Pacific Blue pilot Roderick Gunn, who was found guilty two weeks ago.

Judge Phillips did not disqualify Gunn but ordered that he undertake extensive retraining, and be overseen by Air New Zealand captain and expert witness in the case Stu Julian.

Gunn is also barred from being a pilot in command of a flight in and out of Queenstown for 12 months.

In finding Gunn guilty earlier this month, Judge Phillips ruled he shouldn't have taken off from Queenstown Airport in dark, wintry conditions in his Sydney-bound Boeing 737-800 on June 22, 2010.

During the lengthy trial in March and September last year, the Civil Aviation Authority alleged the pilot, then 54, took off at 5.25pm, 11 minutes after the rules stipulated it was safe to do so at that time of year. That, compounded by low cloud and high-cross winds, meant that a prudent and responsible pilot would have left the plane grounded.

The prosecution case centred on the idea that if there was an engine failure during or immediately after take-off, the plane - carrying 70 passengers - would not have been able to make it safely out of the mountainous basin and on to another airport.

In his 130-page judgment, Judge Phillips found the pilot did not apply the degree of care and attention a reasonable and prudent pilot would have exercised.

Gunn had 30 years' experience flying in and out of Queenstown.

It will take the 55-year-old 17 months to get a new licence, having been stood down for two-and-a-half years while the case was before the court.

Prior to the incident Gunn's commercial career comprised 16,043 hours' total flying time, of which 6000 hours were spent flying a Boeing 737.

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