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CAA Investigation!

Old 13th Jun 2010, 19:30
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: UK
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CAA Investigation!


I have just started my first commercial job as an aerial photography pilot. I have had a letter from the CAA for infringing rule 5 by flying below 500ft. This is an allegation but is being investigated by the CAA as they have numerous witnesses but i am waiting for the evidence. I have been asked to send my logbook and licence into the CAA. I did not infringe rule five and the transponder does not work so a read out on radar would be inaccurate also. I was sqk 7000 VFR outside controlled airspace so don't know what evidence they may have.

I am very worried about this if it goes further as i am newly qualified and don't want to lose my licence or be put in jail which i have been told can happen!!

Has anyone else had this problem from the CAA or done the same job as aerial photo pilot and had complaints of low flying when you have not?

Thanks for replies in advance.
mrferrypilot is offline  
Old 13th Jun 2010, 19:39
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Join Date: Apr 2010
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Well, first question....are you a member of BALPA ?? If so, first point of contact for you for a little legal advice me thinks......if not, then a search for a good aviation lawyer would probably be in order before doing anything else, at least that way you can be sure your doing things correctly, to the letter of the law etc. - others may have advice in due course of more substance than my post, but it's how i would proceed initially if i were in your situation.

All the best anyway !

OutsideCAS is offline  
Old 13th Jun 2010, 20:43
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I was doing orbits over my parents a couple of years ago (Wirral area), someone in the vacinty contacted the CAA and reported me, quoting rule 5 blah blah blah...twas quite a lengthy email, which I recieved a copy of.

TX didnt give any alt info, but Liverpool airport had sound monitoring equipment in that area and concluded from the readings I was 600' AGL, I was asked if I wanted to respond to the busy body who reported me, I did thanking him politely for reminding me of rule 5 and for pointing out to me that I can fly 100 feet lower next time

I didnt have to send anything off to the CAA though, Liverpool ATC had recieved the complaint first and had all the info to hand. It might be worth contacting the unit you were talking to at the time or nearest unit to where you were operating and seeing if they have similiar equipment.
Nearly There is offline  
Old 13th Jun 2010, 21:25
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I believe not many cases go to court, however if they do the costs can be nasty.

Recent case involving banner towing in the link below. The solicitor mentioned in the article might be worth contacting.

Low flying pilot cleared - North and East Manchester Advertiser
horsebox is offline  
Old 13th Jun 2010, 21:29
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Take an aggressive 'F'off attitude with them and they'll go away. There was a guy at Thruxton who was blatently performing illegal crop circle flights (being PPL and no AOC) around 1996 and he took that approach and despite being clearly in the wrong they backed down. Sounds like you have jumped through the hoops and played ball with the system so it's a shame they take this attitude to you. Don't get me wrong-there are some really good,nice and competent guys in the CAA. However, being a goverment organisation there are some complete tossers!!
All the best,
Black Knat is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 03:15
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Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: europe
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welcome in aviation, this is nothing worse than a traffic violation, like speeding.
All captains have to deal with these things in their career, happen to me too.

best way is to deal with them if you did it...they won't take your license away for that.
you can get a fine(100-200 pounds), but certainly no jail!

you are a professional pilot, you do a mistake, you pay for it!
A320rider is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 07:00
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Join Date: Aug 2005
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Do not follow the suggestion of A320 rider! If you get a conviction for low flying it WILL affect any future job applications in the industry. In addition, I think it may count as a criminal conviction (check with someone legal about this). If that is so then it could affect air side pass applications and certainly some non-aviation things (ie/if you ever wanted a firearm or shotgun certificate).
To clarify my previous post, I don't mean that you literally get aggressive and rude with the CAA. I've seen this tactic used (sucessfully) by a PPL holder but as you hold a professional licence you have a lot to lose. I would suggest you politely but firmly state the facts (ie/you were not below 500') and that you will firmly defend that position. Make it clear that you will defend you position legally if necessary. I would also ask them what the 'evidence' it is that they have-if your account is correct then it will only be reports by members of the public who we all know won't be able to tell the difference between 400' and 900'.
Not sure who is in the legal department of the CAA these days but good luck!
Black Knat is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 08:26
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Where you actually involved in taking photographs at the time? If so it is possible to calculate your height from measurements of features on the photographs and information about the camera used. This could be used to prove your altitude. Far more scientific and reliable than complainers on the ground.
Groundloop is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 08:42
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The best bit of advice I had from a solicitor is to not fuel the fire, politely respond to the CAA, saying your not aware there was an infringement, however could them supply further information. Also be sure that in addition to rule 5, you can demonstrate that there was a suitable open space in the event of an engine failure!

I had a letter from the CAA legal department a number of years ago based on a MOR filled by myself and ATC, it related to an inflight emergency, it came to noting. It was like many 'legal letters' purely speculative!
athonite is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 10:05
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Mr Ferry..I hope this helps...

1 If you are quite certain that you committed no offence, do not, under any circumstances admit that there was a possibilty of an offence being committed. Don't even consider doing that because it will certainly jeopardise your defence in the event of court action.

2 Remember that the CAA only ever pursue legal-action where there is a strong chance of a successful prosecution.

3 The CAA are totally mindful that many compalints are groundless/scurrilous/mischievous. They are also quite aware that even sincere complainants are (usually) hopeless at estimating heights.

4 If you are interviewed in person, note that the CAA interviewer will be a former police-officer and NOT an aviation expert. His skills will be confined to interpreting the law and interview procedures.. he/she will most likely have no flying experience or qualifications.

5 Previous advice about consulting BALPA and/or a specialist aviation lawyer is good advice.

Good Luck BM
BoeingMEL is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 11:22
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I hope your logbook was up to date. And do you know why they asked for your licence? Because you need it to carry on working. And I wouldn't worry too much because estimating an aircraft's height is almost impossible, even if you are in the game. But should you get to court (do not accept a caution to get them off your back), they will have to be very clever to get a single ground witness to prove, beyond all reasonable doubt, that you were below 500'. For example, outside the court (don't let the witness know this in advance), ask for the witness to tell you how tall each building is. No errors are allowed. But you will need a lawyer to make your case and make the witness unreliable- which is where your BALPA membership kicks in. You are a member, aren't you!


(an ex-aerial photographer - Aerofilms)
Piltdown Man is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 11:34
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For the future, you should also accept that, with a decent camera and lens, there is no need to go any lower than 1300'. I once did a photographic sortie to help out a photographer and never went below 1300-1500'. I would not have gone if he needed to go lower and he was quite happy with this.
pulse1 is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 11:50
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Posts: 93
Low flying/photography

First of all there is no actual need to get below 1000 agl with modern camera's even if the geeky photographers try to "Spin" you into believing that the pics are mysteriously enhanced by being low. They won't like blowing the extra money on a more powerful lens though so you may be in for a battle of wills. Best way to kill these complaints is to do what we do and fit a little gps gadget that puts altitude data into the exif file. QED. The caa accept you can not corrupt this data and it blows off all the insane complaints which are in the main noise complaints really. Ask your employer to fit a gomolzig or leise silencer as this diminishes complaints by 75% in my experience. If you have an employer who cares, a four bladed prop will make you virtually inaudible at our profile which is 1200 feet 65 kt and 40% power.
Now you have the complaint i can only make advice privately so have a look at your "Private Messages" and give me a call for a brief on how to a) kill this complaint and b) avoid further ones.
Sadly not all these complaints are passed on by the busy pilgrims that run air photo ops so don't be surprised if there is a back log of others pending.
spernkey is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 12:10
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Might it not be a good idea to log GPS data for every lowish-level flight?

With WAAS, altitude data is pretty good nowadays and the recorded track can be compared to the published OS orthometric heights and a good agl plot produced as numerical evidence for every second of flight time.

It's not conclusive proof of height, but it's a lot better than the visual recall of a complainant and it may well be verifiable with extra stuff such as SSR.

Probably best to keep your powder dry and simply tell the CAA that you have contrary evidence which you will produce at Court in the event of an inappropriate prosecution.
Low Flier is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 12:36
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It would be wise of you to take spernkey up on his offer, if you haven't already.
Nearly There is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 12:48
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4 If you are interviewed in person, note that the CAA interviewer will be a former police-officer and NOT an aviation expert. His skills will be confined to interpreting the law and interview procedures.. he/she will most likely have no flying experience or qualifications.
Really? I wouldn't bank on it. I'd expect him to be expert in aviation law and interview procedures whether he was and ex pilot or ex CID and have been given plenty of opportunity to gain flying experience.
And I would't try and talk to witnesses outside a court either.
Carrying a GPS was a good tip. What about a recorder as used for gliding.
Good luck.
Desk Jockey is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 13:22
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4 If you are interviewed in person, note that the CAA interviewer will be a former police-officer and NOT an aviation expert. His skills will be confined to interpreting the law and interview procedures.. he/she will most likely have no flying experience or qualifications.
....and I have flown with 3 former CID officers who hold or have held an ATPL. Assume nothing and get proper legal advice.

Yellow Sun is offline  
Old 14th Jun 2010, 17:13
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: UK
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I second the advice given by Yellow Sun.

Point 4 made by Boeing MEL is total nonsense. (I appreciate he probably meant well)
olicana is offline  
Old 15th Jun 2010, 10:58
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I carry a little GPS data-logger,cost about 50,or e-bay prices, if you don`t have a GPS;program runs on Google Earth,and shows all relevant data.
sycamore is offline  
Old 16th Jun 2010, 14:04
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Herefordshire
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Yellow Sun..I think you may have misinterpreted my reply!

I was not referring generally to police-officers (former and current) who may, or may not, have flying experience. I was referring expressly to those former police-officers employed by the CAA for investigative and interview purposes.

My reply was based on 2 personal friends/acqaintances currently/formerly doing that exact same job and recent stories in 2 UK flying mags.

I was merely trying to offer constructive advice based on facts and personal experience.... Cheers, BM
BoeingMEL is offline  

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