The former director of a grounded flying school is fighting accusations he assaulted two student pilots in midair, elbowing one and slapping the other in the face, before slamming his head against the cockpit.
Ravindra Pal Singh, 65, of Palmerston North, denies any wrongdoing. His defence says he is the victim of a cabal of failing students who hate him and have concocted a "big lie".
Singh ran the now-folded Wings Flight Training Academy for Indian students and is defending two charges of common assault.
In Palmerston North District Court yesterday police prosecutor Shelley Watson-Hughes said he slapped Illyas Valiyapeediyekal in the face and shoved his head against the cockpit during a flight on June 25 last year.
It is also alleged Singh elbowed Srishti Vijay when he became angry with her during flights between May 25 and July 7 last year. This caused her to worry about losing control, Watson-Hughes said.
Valiyapeediyekal told the court he arrived in New Zealand in January 2011 and was doing his first solo controlled flight on June 25, above Palmerston North.
Singh was seated next to him and had a set of controls, but Valiyapeediyekal was to do the flying.
As he approached the runway for landing, things began to unravel.
"Singh was not happy with my flying. He was shouting at me for the whole flight," Valiyapeediyekal said. "He suddenly slapped me."
This knocked Valiyapeediyekal's microphone away and he couldn't reply to the airfield control tower which was trying to reach him.
"He pulled my head in and banged [it] into the side of the left window."
Valiyapeediyekal said Singh then put the microphone back on and made him do another circuit, rather than land, despite the student feeling "stressed".
He said he subsequently complained to the Education Ministry and NZ Qualifications Authority about Wings, but did not go to the police straightaway because he thought that, like in India, they were "scary".
Defence lawyer Tony Thackery accused Valiyapeediyekal of telling a "big lie" about the alleged assault and joining with four others to wrongly complain about Singh after he told them their student visas might not be extended.
"Why should I make a story?" Valiyapeediyekal said. "I didn't get any benefit out of it. I came here to study, not to make stress."
Valiyapeediyekal said he knew the others who had complained about Wings only through the school. He denied he had links to India's Civil Aviation Ministry and "made it his business" to tell people of his influence back home.
Thackery asked him if he was failing the flying programme and not turning up to class. "There were no classes in Wings Flight Training," Valiyapeediyekal said.
Valiyapeediyekal did admit to posting a message on Facebook when Singh was arrested for the alleged assaults: "Ahaha R.P.Singh got arrested. Today is one of the most happiest days in my life."
The hearing will continue next month.
- Manawatu Standard