Just another day at the office - pilot

A Pacific Blue pilot on trial for alleged careless operation of a Sydney-bound passenger jet from Queenstown yesterday described the midwinter departure as difficult but "just another day at the office".

The Papakura pilot, 54, who has interim name suppression, appeared before Judge Kevin Phillips in Queenstown District Court charged with operating a Boeing 737 in a careless manner on June 22, 2010, a charge laid by the Civil Aviation Authority.

He told the court he calculated the aircraft could achieve a set heading height by a waypoint and he was compelled to identify a suitable alternate aerodrome in the event of engine failure. He had great difficulty with comments saying the crew was required to plan for an engine-out return to land procedure flying a figure-of-eight rather than the planned contingency to Christchurch Airport.

There was no intention to return to land at Queenstown, he said. No other aircraft flown by the pilot had the capability of the 737-800, he said.

Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch asked the defendant whether he had any regrets.

"I acknowledge absolutely that the company and authority had a different view.

"If I was aware of that view at the time I would not have departed but what I am saying is [flight operation] manuals led me down a path where that departure was a possibility," the pilot said.

Every departure plan included an engine failure procedure and it was the norm to fly a different route to the planned departure if an engine failed, he said.

He told the court exiting to the east coast if necessary was sensible and plain common sense.

"That figure eight pattern is not easy to fly, it's in terrain, you're heading at some stage straight at The Remarkables. It's not simple, it's doable but given the choice it would not be my preferred option.

"We are given the choice.

"A lot of the criticism was on the basis that it was a front but the actual front had moved through.

"What I had to climb through was post-frontal cloud, we were not in it for a lot of the climb.

None of this I regard as exceptionally difficult. To me this was just another day at the office, more difficult than many ... I actually thought we did a good job in what we did." The hearing continues.

The Southland Times