Banned cowboy glider pilot now free to fly

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Queenstown’s former flying cowboy has been cleared for takeoff after a five-year ban. 

Hang-gliding pilot John Smith, 40, has recently been granted “recreational pilot status” for a year by the New Zealand Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. 

This will be followed by two years of probationary commercial flying while employed by an approved operator. 

To gain reinstatement, Smith was forced into abjectly apologising on the NZHGPA website, acknowledging “actions taken against me by the Civil Aviation Authority resulted primarily from my actions and behaviours”. 

Smith remains under scrutiny – any disciplinary breaches over the next three years will be punished with another five-year ban. 

“John must strive to be seen as a model pilot and promote responsible flying activities,” the NZHGPA says. 

Hang-gliding’s bad boy first flew into turbulence in 2003, when the CAA suspended him for “dive-bombing” people on the ground and “low flying”. 

Let off after promising to follow the rules, Smith faced a fresh complaint in 2005 – again alleging dive-bombing and low flying – and his licence was cancelled this time. 

However, what really put Smith in the gun happened in 2006 when local police – after a tip-off – staked out Arrowtown’s Flight Park for photographic evidence of the banned pilot flying with a Japanese passenger. 

During a CAA prosecution in September 2009, Smith unsuccessfully defended four counts of operating without a licence and was fined $4750. 

Repeated attempts to contact Smith proved unsuccessful.