Judge fines careless’ Pacific Blue Queenstown pilot, orders retraining

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A pilot guilty of operating a commercial passenger jet in a careless manner in Queenstown has been fined $5100 and must do extensive retraining. 

In Queenstown District Court this morning, Judge Kevin Phillips also lifted the name suppression of Auckland-based Pacific Blue pilot Roderick Gunn, who was found guilty two weeks ago. 

Judge Phillips did not disqualify Gunn but ordered that he undertake extensive retraining, to be overseen by Air New Zealand captain and expert witness in the case Stu Julian. 

Gunn is also barred from being a pilot in command of a flight in and out of Queenstown for 12 months. 

In finding Gunn guilty earlier this month, Phillips ruled he shouldn’t have taken off from Queenstown Airport in dark, wintry conditions in his Sydney-bound Boeing 737-800 on June 22, 2010.

During the lengthy trial in March and September 2012, the Civil Aviation Authority alleged the pilot, then 54, took off at 5.25pm, 11 minutes after the rules stipulated it was safe to do so at that time of year. That, compounded by low cloud and high-cross winds, meant that a prudent and responsible pilot would have left the plane grounded.

The prosecution case centred on the idea that if there was an engine failure during or immediately after take-off, the plane – carrying 70 passengers – wouldn’t have been able to make it safely out of the mountainous basin and on to another airport.

In his 130-page judgment, Judge Phillips found the pilot did not apply the degree of care and attention a reasonable and prudent pilot would have exercised.