Pilot school head guilty of assaults
The former director of grounded Palmerston North flying school, Wings, has been found guilty of assaulting two student pilots in midair.
In the Palmerston North District Court yesterday, Judge Jennifer Binns said she believed the students' version of events and Ravindra Pal Singh, 65, had put his own "gloss" on what happened.
He was found guilty on two charges of common assault.
On June 25 last year, Singh slapped Illyas Valiyapeediyekal in the face and shoved his head against the side of the cockpit.
And on seven flights between May and July 2011 he elbowed Srishti Vijay and, on occasions, held his hand over her head in a threatening manner.
Singh argued that the allegations were fabricated by a group of failing students whose visas allowing them to stay in New Zealand he was not going to extend.
"I have listened and I thought it was implausible to suggest a conspiracy," Judge Binns said.
"[Ms Vijay] was clear when she demonstrated what had happened.
"I consider that Ms Vijay showed considerable courage when giving her evidence."
Judge Binns said suggestions Ms Vijay was a poor student were not true.
The judge also said defence lawyer Tony Thackery's questioning of Ms Vijay "at times bordered on abusive", with suggestions she had forged documents and that a minor accident in an aeroplane might have been the reason she complained about Singh.
The judge said Mr Valiyapeediyekal's evidence was "consistent and firm" and that he showed "a certain integrity".
Two other charges of common assault were dropped. An arrest warrant has been issued for one of those complainants, Sarath Babu, who is wanted on charges of forging civil aviation documents.
Wings, which offered training to Indians, closed last summer after some students complained about it.
Singh said Wings had a good reputation and things went awry after he clamped down on visa extensions.
He now faces one more charge of common assault against Ms Vijay, which he will defend.
Sentencing on the other charges will take place after that matter is heard.