Takeoff legal, safe: expert witness
JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
An expert witness and pilot with 55 years' experience today said the takeoff of a midwinter Pacific Blue flight from Queenstown was legal, safe and did not breach a civil aviation rule.
The Pacific Blue pilot, 54, who has interim name suppression, appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips charged with operating a Boeing 737 in a careless manner on June 22, 2010, a charge laid by the Civil Aviation Authority.
Expert witness Captain Fred Douglas (retired) told the court the pilot was aware of a company limit that all takeoffs must be within 30 minutes of the evening civil twilight cutoff at 5.45pm to allow for visual flight manoeuvres.
The takeoff was at 5.25pm.
Douglas previously served as Air New Zealand manager of flight operations, an instructor, and aviation safety consultant.
He said the pilot departed based on his understanding the twilight allowance was there to return to Queenstown in an emergency but he understood this was prohibited and planned for an emergency route to Christchurch.
"I believe this was a logical and sensible analysis.
"Having correctly established a departure to the east coast the only relevant daylight requirement was to reach the minimum safe altitude for (automatic instrument) flight.
"I do not consider the departure constituted a breach (of a civil aviation rule) at all."
Even if an engine failed in those conditions the aircraft was capable of climbing to 10,000 feet in seven minutes and clearing the Southern Alps at 5.33pm before the twilight cutoff, he said
He was entitled to plan for Christchurch - it would have been a dereliction of duty to do otherwise and the east coast emergency plan was "legal, safe and simple."
The captain was the top of the tree and one of a handful of Pacific Blue pilots who checked and trained other pilots for Queenstown, he said.
The hearing continues.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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