'Raft' of breaches followed crash

Last updated 05:00 15/11/2013

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The actions of a Ranfurly helicopter pilot who lied to investigators after crashing while carrying out commercial work he was not licensed for "cannot get much worse", the Alexandra District Court was told yesterday.

Daniel James Parker, 22, appeared before Judge Michael Crosbie as Civil Aviation Authority prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch outlined a "raft" of breaches to CAA rules.

Parker was carrying out agricultural work in his Robinson R22 on Lochar Downs Farm in Cromwell on March 16 last year when he collided with an irrigation system.

Mr Pilditch said Parker did not have the necessary licence to undertake commercial work - a licence that was not simply a "bureaucratic exercise" to obtain but one which covered training protocols and safety systems.

After the crash, Parker then "carelessly" flew the damaged aircraft to a truck which transported the aircraft to a hangar where he again flew the aircraft off the truck on to the ground.

"It was only in the air for a short period of time but it simply should never have been flown in that condition at all," Mr Pilditch said.

Parker, without being trained or certified, carried out repairs to the helicopter rather than getting a licensed aviation mechanic to carry out the work. He removed the tail boom, fitted vertical and horizontal stabilisers, removed and reinstalled the tail rotor, and repaired and painted the scroll case - all of which posed a "serious safety risk", Mr Pilditch said.

Furthermore, during the CAA investigation, Parker "misrepresented the truth", telling safety investigators repeatedly he had "landed hard" rather than collided with an irrigator.

"It cannot get much worse than this. He tried to fix the aircraft, then went on to hide the events.

"The combination of offences must fall within the most aggravating and serious range of the spectrum under the CAA act."

Defence lawyer Brett Cooper said the offending was "an illustration of youth and inexperience".

"He has already suffered a huge personal cost - the aircraft was not insured, he still does not have his commercial pilot's licence - he does have ambition to finish his licence."

Judge Crosbie said there was "no room for naivety" in relation to the charges. However, he indicated prison would not be an appropriate sentence.

He remanded Parker to reappear on December 12 in Dunedin for sentencing on charges of: operating an aircraft on a commercial agricultural aircraft operation without holding a commercial pilot's licence; operating an aircraft in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to property - colliding with an irrigation system; on or about March 17 operating an aircraft in a careless manner by flying the aircraft on to and off a truck when it was not in an airworthy condition; carrying out maintenance and repairs to the helicopter without a licence; and providing false information to the CAA about the incident.

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- The Southland Times

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