Pacific Blue pilot chooses jury trial for Queenstown charges

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The Pacific Blue pilot charged after allegedly compromising the safety of his passengers while taking off from Queenstown has chosen a trial by jury.

The 53-year-old Auckland man appeared in Queenstown District Court today for what was meant to be a status hearing, but his lawyer Phena Byrne told Judge Dominic Flatley that under the Civil Aviation Act, he has the right to elect trial by jury.

The man, who has interim name suppression, pleads not guilty to an indictable charge of operating a Boeing 737 in a manner that caused unnecessary danger to passengers and crew on board, and a summarily-laid charge of operating the aircraft in a careless manner.

The alleged incident took place in bad weather and in darkness on June 22 last year. The flight had been scheduled to depart for Sydney at 4.30pm, but it’s alleged the plane didn’t take off till 5.25pm – 20 minutes past the 5.05pm cut-off in mid-winter.

The pilot, who has reportedly been stood down by Pacific Blue since July last year, reappears for post-committal conference on October 7.