A pilot who fitted a cracked part back on the landing gear of his charter plane after maintenance engineers had banned its use has been fined a total of $10,000.
Paul Ensor, 40, owner of Island Air Charters, appeared for sentence yesterday in Tauranga District Court.
About two dozen residents of Motiti Island off Mt Maunganui, who had used his air service for years, were in the public gallery to support him.
A week ago - only days before he was due to defend 15 serious breaches of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) regulations - he admitted putting the lives of his passengers at risk.
Ensor pleaded guilty to seven charges and a further eight allegations were withdrawn.
Five of the counts on which he was convicted concerned operating an aircraft between July 29 and August 3 last year, causing unnecessary danger because the plane was not in an airworthy condition.
On the other two counts - doing maintenance work on the Cessna without a current aircraft maintenance engineer's licence and making an alteration to a plane's records - he was convicted and discharged. He faced a maximum penalty of 12 months' jail or a fine of up to $10,000 for each offence.
Judge Joanna Maze described Ensor as arrogant for ignoring two independent qualified engineers who found a crack in a torque link of the Cessna's undercarriage and declared it unfit to fly.
She said failure of the damaged component could have been catastrophic.
The judge also disqualified Ensor from holding a pilot licence for six months.
His licence had already been suspended for two years in May by the CAA director after an investigation into the forced landing last December of a Britten-Norman Islander aircraft flown by Mr Ensor.
In court yesterday, Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said Ensor was the chief executive and chief pilot of Island Air Charters.
In July last year, an engineer conducting maintenance on the company's Cessna 206 Sky Wagon found a crack in the nose landing gear. He made it clear the aircraft could not be used without the fault being fixed or the part replaced.
The court heard that the part was removed and sent to another engineer, who was unable to fix the crack.
Shortly after the component was returned, Ensor refitted it to the aircraft using a substitute bolt, then flew the plane 18 times carrying a total of 80 passengers.
Lawyer Matthew Ward-Johnson said Ensor did not believe at the time that the part was cracked but had to accept that two engineers said it was.
He now deeply regretted his actions.
While suspended from flying, Ensor was keen to upskill, the lawyer said.
Members of the crowd in the back of the court clapped after the sentencing, and a woman called to the judge "thank you, your honour" as Ensor left the dock.