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NZ CAA prosecuting 'rescue' pilot

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NZ CAA prosecuting 'rescue' pilot

Old 5th Oct 2015, 09:55
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NZ CAA prosecuting 'rescue' pilot

What a nonsense:

Victim pleads for mercy for 'hero' pilot prosecuted over dramatic rescue

A "hero" helicopter pilot is facing possible jail-time over the dramatic rescue of an injured hunter who says he owes the pilot his life.

Hunter Scott Lee was left dangling on the edge of a 50-metre drop after falling in remote bush north of Kaikoura on April 5, 2014.

He suffered a broken femur, and had to be tethered to a tree with his girlfriend's clothing to prevent him from plunging further down the bluff to his death.

Local pilot Dave Armstrong stepped up to complete the rescue after another helicopter had already turned back.

But now he faces charges because his licence was at the time suspended, due to a medical scare from a diagnosis which had already been called into question.

The prosecution is thought to be the first of its kind in New Zealand for a pilot performing a search and rescue mission.

The situation has outraged some in the flying community, as well as the hunter Armstrong saved, with the Christchurch man saying he was "absolutely devastated" for the pilot.

Lee has written to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) pleading for them to drop the three charges Armstrong is facing next weekin Kaikoura District Court.

In the letter he explains how he had gone after his girlfriend, Lisa McKenzie, who had tumbled down a shingle bank, before tripping and badly breaking his leg on the tree that broke his 15-metre fall.

The first rescue chopper had been forced to turn back due to low fuel.

Armstrong then attempted the rescue, and it is understood he sat alongside his co-pilot as a supervisor because he was suspended from flying.

But his junior struggled to make the manouevre in their Robinson R44 light four-seater machine.

Kaikoura Search and Rescue (SAR) alternate controller Mike Morrissey said it was cloudy, the couple were in dense bush on a steep slope, and the view was that Lee could not be left overnight in such conditions.

Armstrong took the controls instead and dropped in Morrissey, a doctor, and the rest of the SAR team .

"Dave knew exactly where these guys were," Morrissey said.

"He's been flying to do rain gauges there every month for years.

"At that time Dave had the opportunity to do it. He was the best person for it so we used him."

Lee said he and his girlfriend had lost hope after hearing the first chopper turn back.

He had even accepted he might die alone by the time he heard the approach of Armstrong's chopper.

It took the SAR crew about six hours to stretcher Lee out of the bush, Morrissey said.

A source close to the case said Armstrong's flight-logs were later seized by police on behalf of the CAA.

The source said the day Armstrong flew, there was doubt about his medical issue and he had been challenging the opinion while trying to get the grounding order lifted.

Lee and McKenzie both wrote to the CAA in support of Armstrong when they heard of the prosecution.

"We truly believe that we owe our lives to Dave and the team that helped us, and there is no way we will ever be able to express our gratitude to them."

Lee wrote: "Clearly it was a life or death situation and we are grateful that Dave made that decision as I would not be here without him."

He said the pilot did not deserve such scrutiny.

"He's done a heroic act in my eyes. If anything, he deserves a medal for what he's done," Lee said. "He's a hero."

Wanaka pilot and Armstrong's friend, John Levy, said the cost of the prosecution and being grounded had affected the family's livelihood.

A spokesman for the CAA said it was not in a position to comment on the case while the matter was before the courts.

Armstrong and his lawyer also declined to comment.

THE CHARGES

The charges relate to alleged breaches of the Civil Aviation Act for performing search and rescue flights without a current medical licence.

The Act, which is currently under review, says pilots can breach the law in life or death emergencies, but not if they are not lawfully entitled to fly.

That includes for medical reasons, or if their craft is not airworthy.

The maximum penalty is 12 months' jail or a $10,000 fine per offence.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 10:08
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How sad,

Obviously the Authorities in NZ seem to be afflicted with the same sort of Mangled lines of thought ( NO BRAIN COMMON SENSE AREA) that all Civil servant types all over the world are afflicted with..

For Christ's sake, a guys life was saved...is that, or doe's that not justify extenuating circumstances, that Pilot was the only person on the spot who could get it done, he did it the man survived and now some Civil Law is going to try and Bin the man

Hey, Authorities WAKE UP and smell reality..!! would you have walked away ??
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 10:28
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So just claim the junior pilot was pic. The commander of the aircraft does not necessarily HAVE to be manipulating the controls.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 11:08
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Armstrong then attempted the rescue, and it is understood he sat alongside his co-pilot as a supervisor because he was suspended from flying.

But his junior struggled to make the manouevre in their Robinson R44 light four-seater machine.
This says it all. Mr Armstrong didn't just blatantly go out ignoring NZ CAA ruling, and his initial intentions were legal. But with possessing a good knowledge of the local area he then took over to assist in the final manoeuvre. It's not clear on the nature of his medical condition but the junior pilot was able to legally fly the rescue team out to the location and probably returned the ship.

On the surface it does seems like a bit of rough treatment though.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 11:10
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Chopjock; My immediate thought, exactly. At what point did Mr Armstrong take command, as opposed to handling the controls. What's the offence, exactly?

OK, I confess. I flew a helicopter a few years ago for 30 minutes from the LH seat, when on a trip with a friend of mine who was, and remained, PIC for the whole of the flight. We went up and down, turned left and right, all sorts of things.

It was a commercial flight, too.

The dreadful thing is,nowhere on my licence does it mention helicopters, rotary wings, Mixmasters or anything of that ilk.

Come and get me, Constable.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 11:40
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At what point did Mr Armstrong take command, as opposed to handling the controls
I don't know but I presume he was not in command at anytime as he did not have a current medical certificate. But one can still fly the aircraft with the permission of the commander, right?
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 11:53
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I suspect this case will hinge around whether Mr. Armstrong took off in the helicopter knowing that he would be required to take over the controls on arriving at the scene due to his co-pilots' inexperience.

If he went along intending merely to advise and assist but ended up taking over the controls without any intent to do so when the flight took off, then that is another matter. That would seem to fall into a similar category as to when an unlicensed pilot or passeneger lands a plane after their instructor suddenly becomes incapacitated.

In genuine life or death emergencies, actions can be taken to save life which would not normally be acceptable in law. But there will need to be a court case to determine whether Mr. Armstrongs' actions were reasonable at the time taking into account all the circumstances. Even if found guilty, the court may decide to impose only a trivial penalty reflecting the successful outcome of events.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 12:02
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In UK there are cases where the authorities decree that "it is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution".

I don't know if a similar caveat exists in NZ law, but if so, this is surely something that should be considered in a case like this.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 21:26
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I appreciate that it is a hypothetical question, as the flight was successful but.....
If the aircraft had an incident or accident on that flight and bearing in mind the pilot in question was grounded due to a perceived medical problem and as such, that commercial flight probably took place without valid insurance and outside of the companies AOC, then would you all agree that the pilot was right to give it a go?
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 22:05
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Handysnaks - exactly. You're a hero if all goes well, but strangely you suddenly have no friends when something goes very wrong.

A fickle bunch us humans - eh?
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 22:19
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A couple of pertinent points from the Antipodes which may be outside the 'norm' for those posting with UK/EASA rules ingrained in their DNA.

We have a variation of commercial ops called 'airwork/aerial work' which has a lower standard of accountability. A search or a rescue would fall within the Airwork category. We also have a term 'mercy flight' where life is at risk, allowing variations in the rules and regs.

Finally we are reading a news report: how accurate is that? There is little point in debating the minutiae of words used in that report since it is unlikely that the journalist has the faintest idea how his terminology can be misinterpreted by the aviation community.

I see a responsible action by a pilot with a temporary (medical) licence suspension who went along in an advisory capacity on a flight with another pilot PIC, and then took over the controls to ensure that a critical part of the mission was accomplished to get essential personnel on the ground to save a life. The journo's use of 'co-pilot' should have no value since it is most likely that he (the guy in the RH seat) was the pilot for the flight. We don't use 'commander' and other such highfalutin terms down here
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 22:23
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And that is precisely why there will be a court case to determine whether Mr. Armstrong took off in the knowledge that he would probably have to fly the helicopter at some point in the rescue.

It doesn't really matter that the rescue was successful, it was that someone allowed themselves to become involved in the knowledge that they might have to undertake an activity from which they were currently banned.

If something is proscribed by law, then it is up to the courts to determine whether any breech that occured is reasonable taking into account all of the circumstances. If the rescue had been unsuccessful or the helicopter had crashed, there could have been two sets of casualties stranded in a remote location in urgent need of medical assistance.

The offence is not flying with a suspended licence, it is flying in defiance of a ban (for whatever reason) imposed by the authorities. They don't like that!
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 22:35
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Originally Posted by G0ULI View Post
I suspect this case will hinge around whether Mr. Armstrong took off in the helicopter knowing that he would be required to take over the controls on arriving at the scene due to his co-pilots' inexperience.
Again, this is interpreting the journo's use of the term 'co-pilot' as gospel. I find it not just unlikely but impossible for the flight to have commenced with Mr Armstrong as the pilot and the other as co-pilot. There would have been one pilot signing out the aircraft, and it would not have been the accused.

Had the journo referred to 'the other pilot' would there be such mock outrage? Are we living in such a rules dominated/risk averse culture that saving a life takes second place to doing what is morally right and logistically achievable?

I don't know what the medical grounding was for, but on the assumption that it was to guard against Mr Armstrong collapsing at the controls then the presence of the other (in command) pilot would have been more than enough to cover that issue for the few minutes needed to complete the task of landing in adverse conditions. If only to pull power and fly out of the landing.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 22:56
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John

I used the term co-pilot in the literal sense. That there was another pilot sitting in the helicopter, not to imply that the co-pilot was not actually the captain of the flight. The other pilot might have been a more correct way of putting it, but it just didn't seem right when I was typing.
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Old 5th Oct 2015, 23:54
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Totally agree with handy, this time he got away with it.

Colin McRae & Mark Weir are two names that immediately come to mind when this topic of conversation crops up!

As Mr A. was company director, that cockpit gradient must have been interesting; and the question must arise, how many other occasions has this guy been flying around while suspended? I would wonder if one should ask the question, 'what would happen if a pilot phones in sick one morning, there is a booking to be flown and no-one else is available!'

How long has Mr Armstrong been suspended as it would seem that he is no stranger to being available when there's a bit of search and rescue on the side!

Jan 28 2015 - Grateful brothers praise rescuers | Stuff.co.nz



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Old 5th Oct 2015, 23:56
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On a different day ....

Pilot in court for crashing helicopter | News24

Pilot in court for crashing helicopter

Johannesburg - A helicopter pilot appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Wednesday for flying and crashing a helicopter while his licence was suspended, police said.

On December 2 last year Rainier Prinsloo, whose licence had been suspended by the SA Civil Aviation Authority, allegedly crashed a helicopter at Baltimore in Limpopo, Colonel McIntosh Polela said.

He and two other occupants, including a young trainee pilot, survived the crash, after Prinsloo made a steep turn to the left, and the helicopter went into a spin.

He was arrested on Monday, while consulting with the Civil Aviation Authority to lift the suspension of his licence.

He faces charges of attempted murder and reckless operation of a helicopter.
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Old 6th Oct 2015, 06:19
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Originally Posted by SilsoeSid View Post
As Mr A. was company director, that cockpit gradient must have been interesting; and the question must arise, how many other occasions has this guy been flying around while suspended? I would wonder if one should ask the question, 'what would happen if a pilot phones in sick one morning, there is a booking to be flown and no-one else is available!'
He's also the Chief Pilot. What must those poor pilots suffer when they have to fly with the CP, how do they cope?


Originally Posted by SilsoeSid View Post
How long has Mr Armstrong been suspended as it would seem that he is no stranger to being available when there's a bit of search and rescue on the side!
As do many operators in NZ: unlike the UK there isn't a plethora of SAR operators dotting the coast. Public service and a willingness to help others isn't deemed worthy of criticism in the shaky isles.

I find the mean spirit being shown here to be amazingly disappointing, quite frankly. As I opined earlier, there seems to be a risk averse attitude that prefers to demonise a pilot for his actions rather than offer the appropriate praise; along with a determination to beat the Daily Mail for twisting facts to suit the demonisation.
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Old 6th Oct 2015, 06:46
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Fair enough John and I understand the different mindsets we all have about this situation. Of course the prosecution may be a bit harsh given the outcome, after all someone's life has been saved. But there's always a little something else behind these stories isn't there.

Apart from the question about him flying while suspended prior to this incident, I'd like to know a bit more detail as to why the professional SAR aircraft couldn't go back to the search area. Was the weather that bad?

Mr A must have known they had turned back because of weather/fuel, was he listening to the event on the radio? Also, the report says that he apparently knew where the injured person was.

Why couldn't the SAR aircraft refuel at Mr A's facility? Pick him up and go back to the search area fully equipped for the subsequent rescue?
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Old 6th Oct 2015, 07:02
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Originally Posted by SilsoeSid View Post
snip

But there's always a little something else behind these stories isn't there.
Only if you want there to be. There has been no reporting that I've seen which in any way implies that Mr Armstrong has any record whatsoever of previous 'transgressions'. This, again, shows a determination to see the worst in another's actions.

Originally Posted by SilsoeSid View Post
Apart from the question about him flying while suspended prior to this incident, I'd like to know a bit more detail as to why the professional SAR aircraft couldn't go back to the search area. Was the weather that bad?
What professional SAR aircraft? The best you may hope for is a local operator turning out to help in an emergency call, indeed it may even have been another machine from the same company.

Originally Posted by SilsoeSid View Post
Mr A must have known they had turned back because of weather/fuel, was he listening to the event on the radio? Also, the report says that he apparently knew where the injured person was.

Why couldn't the SAR aircraft refuel at Mr A's facility? Pick him up and go back to the search area fully equipped for the subsequent rescue?
See my previous reply: I suspect that you are still applying UK expectations to an Antipodean solution. NZ has a very sparse official SAR cover: it remains very much a self help part of the world.
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Old 6th Oct 2015, 07:22
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"What professional SAR aircraft?"

The one mentioned here;
Hero chopper pilot in court | Radio New Zealand News

Amazing that so far all the discussion and opinion about this are based on a single online news report. Now there's another to read.
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