Flying company Helicopters Hawke's Bay has been fined $6750 for a breach of flying regulations uncovered in an investigation of a fatal crash two years ago.
But the Civil Aviation Authority says the prosecution, ending with conviction in the Taupō District Court on June 11, does not relate to the cause of the crash which killed wool industry leader Renata (Ren) Apatu near family operation Ngamatea Station, between Hastings and Taihape, on June 14, 2018.
Helicopter company chief pilot Jim Guerin and a junior pilot were badly injured, while two other passengers received minor injuries, the CAA said.
The company pleaded guilty to a charge of carelessly operating the MD 600N machine based on a failure to stage a safety briefing before the flight and that two non-essential passengers were aboard a helicopter.
Guerin was conducting an agricultural aerial operation looking at crops on Ngamatea Station, which Apatu co-owned, when the crash happened.
CAA Aviation Safety deputy chief executive Dean Winter said although the cause of the crash was yet to be determined by the Transport Accident Investigation Commission (TAIP), the CAA had prosecuted as the rules were in place to ensure minimum safety standards.
"In this case, a safety briefing wasn't provided and more importantly there were two passengers on the flight who did not need to have been on the flight that day," he said.
"It's important for pilots to consider that the reasons for not carrying non-essential passengers is to reduce the consequence of such an incident."
Judge Maree MacKenzie said she was not making any findings about the cause of the crash - which the defence said was comprehensive mechanical failure - and sentenced on the basis that the breaches did not cause the death.
The company held the appropriate certificates for a commercial and agricultural helicopter service.
Judge MacKenzie said two aggravating factors were the carelessness demonstrated by two breaches of the Civil Aviation rules and the unnecessary exposure of two people to the risks of low-level flying.
Guerin, saying his condolences remained with the Apatu family, preferred not to comment while other investigations were incomplete.
Aviation Industry New Zealand chief executive John Nicholson, representing the commercial helicopters industry, said he was concerned the prosecution had taken place before the completion of the TAIP inquiry.
"The first point is we encourage all our members to adhere to the CAA rules, but it's quite unusual to prosecute pending the completion of a TAIP inquiry," he said.
"We would prefer the investigation to be completed first because it would allow the court to be in full possession of the facts."
He asked what would happen if the TAIP inquiry found alleged offending, would it take it back to the court.
"That wouldn't be very fair," he said.