Helicopter crash court case - expert takes the stand

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A Civil Aviation Authority expert told a jury today (Friday) he did not consider weather conditions suitable for flying at some of the times a wealthy Brighouse businessman recorded in his log book that he had undergone training exercises in a Gazelle helicopter.

The businessman, Paul Spencer and his wife Linda, who ran Country Baskets were killed on 26 January 2008 when a Westland Gazelle helicopter he was piloting crashing in Rudding Park, Harrogate, just over a month after he obtained his private helicopter licence.

Flight instructor Ian King is accused of lying to help him obtain a private helicopter licence quicker.

The prosecution claim he falsely certified to the CAA that Mr Spencer had completed all the training requirements in respect of flying hours when he had not done so.

King, 53 of Burns Way, Clifford, Wetherby denies making a false representation with intent to deceive.

Frederick Cross, the senior helicopter flight examiner at the licensing section of the CAA told Leeds Crown Court yesterday although Mr Spencer was a qualified pilot on fixed wing aircraft, flying helicopters was very different.

Mr Spencer had put in his log book that he completed his training between November 19 and December 12 in the shorter days of winter.

Mr Cross told the jury he considered it “extremely unusual” for a trainee helicopter pilot to complete his hours in such a short space of time particularly at that time of year.

He agreed under cross-examination by Jon Gregg defending King if a “pilot had skill and confidence and was driven hard” he could do it.

He also accepted Mr Spencer would have acquired considerable navigation skills as a fixed wing aircraft pilot.

But he said when he examined the log book he could find no record that some of the exercises required had been done and the flight times recorded did not appear to allow time for them even if not logged.

Nor were the weather conditions suitable for some of the manoeuvres involved when other exercises were recorded as done.

“I do not believed those exercises could have taken place specifically on those dates in that weather, he said. Overcast weather “severely restricts your ability since you must not go into cloud.”

He told the jury the Civil Aviation Authority relied on the instructor signing off the licence application to certify that all training was complete.

Stephen Hunt, a CAA investigator said King had not supplied his own log book records when requested after the crash and as a result of that had been convicted at Leeds Magistrates Court in 2009 in relation to failure to present his log book.

The trial continues on Monday.