Published date: 18 April 2024

A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) prosecution has ended with the conviction of a pilot for operating an aircraft in a careless manner when he landed his microlight aircraft in foggy conditions with a passenger on board.

In the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday, Judge Lynch convicted the man on one charge of operating an aircraft in a careless manner, and also found the pilot guilty of fuelling an aircraft while a passenger remained on board, applying a total fine of $6500 for both charges. 

On the morning of 25 July 2023, the pilot flew a microlight – a small aircraft designed to carry no more than two people - from his home airstrip to Rangiora aerodrome. The Civil Aviation Rules require that, for safety purposes, this type of flight must be done with good visibility. But despite the aerodrome being fogged in, the pilot flew on, landing and refuelling.

As noted in the Summary of Facts, “three pilots witnessed the landing, with one estimating flight visibility in the area where the aircraft landed and taxied in was approximately 150 metres. This represents approximately 10 percent of the required flight visibility minimum of 1500 metres.”

The pilot later agreed that he should not have landed, but said he was unaware that refuelling with a passenger on board was prohibited by the rules.

CAA Deputy Chief Executive Dean Winter says the conviction highlights the importance of operating safely as set out in the rules of operation within the Civil Aviation Act 1990.

The fundamental objective of the Act and the associated Civil Aviation Rules is to set minimum standards of safety to ensure that participants, along with members of the public using aviation services, are kept safe, to the extent that is possible in aviation.

“Pilots have a significant responsibility in ensuring aviation safety," Mr. Winter says.

"Though the outcome of this incident was fortunate, the conviction and severity of the financial penalty serves as a reminder of the importance of adhering to regulations. We urge all pilots to recognise the significance of these rules and to comply with them diligently.”

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