A pilot from Poulton-le-Fylde who crashed his plane after overloading it with passengers hoping to see a rare bird, has been jailed for three and a half years.
Robert Murgatroyd, 52, of Windy Harbour Road, charged three men £500 each for a trip to see the species off the Island of Barra in his Piper PA28, on Saturday September 9 2017.
But just before 9.40am, officers received reports the light aircraft had crashed, shortly after take off, on farm land near Barton Airport, Salford.
Two of the passengers were injured and the men never reached their destination.
The incident sparked a joint investigation between Greater Manchester Police and the UK Civil Aviation Authority, which revealed that the aircraft was 420lbs over its maximum weight.
Officers also discovered although Murgatroyd held a private pilot’s licence, he was not allowed to run commercial flights - rendering his insurance void.
The flight manual was also not specific to that particular aircraft.
On Wednesday 20 February 2019, following a three-week trial at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square, a jury found him guilty of offences including recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft, flying an aircraft without an air operator certificate, flying without an appropriate licence and flying without the aircraft flight manual.
Today (Friday March 15 2019) he was sentenced to three years and six months in prison and had his pilot’s licence revoked by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.
Sergeant Lee Westhead, senior investigation officer from GMP’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, said: “Today’s sentence reflects the utter stupidity of Murgatroyd’s greedy and reckless actions.
“Murgatroyd endangered the lives of dozens of people that day, including those of motorists passing beneath his overloaded plane on the M62.
“That this crash only resulted in two relatively minor injuries is extremely fortunate.
“Make no mistake, this could quite easily have been a truly terrible disaster – all caused because one man saw an opportunity to make a quick buck.
“His passengers weren’t to know their pilot was flouting the law and that he had failed to take the appropriate safety measures.
“Aviation investigations are rare but we won’t hesitate to pursue convictions for those who break the law and risk the lives of others. Pilots hold a position of trust and those that deliberately breach this trust can expect little sympathy from the authorities.
“I hope this investigation and today's sentence sends out a clear message to those that use general aviation as a means to commit crime.
"I’d once again like to thank witnesses who came forward to help with evidence I would also highlight the work of PC Suzanne Keenan, Simon Pollock and Anthony McKeown from the CAA’s Investigation Enforcement Team, as well as prosecuting barrister Henry Blackshaw - without them today’s sentence would not have been possible.”
Murgatroyd was found guilty of:
· Two counts of recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft contrary to articles 240 and 265 (8) ANO 2016
· Flying an aircraft on a public transport flight without an air operator certificate contrary to articles 101(1) and 256(7) ANO 2016
· Acting as a pilot of an EASA aircraft without holding an appropriate licence contrary to articles 136(1) and 265(7) ANO 2016
· Flying an aircraft otherwise than in accordance with the limitations in the flight manual contrary to articles 33(7) and 265(7) ANO 2016
· Operating an aircraft without insurance contrary to regulation 4(1) Civil Aviation Regulations 2005
· Flying without the aircraft flight manual contrary to NCO.GEN 135(a)(1) and article 265(7) ANO 2016.