A pilot has pleaded guilty to flying his helicopter through a Red Arrows display, causing the world famous aerobatic team to abandon their routine.
Luton Magistrates’ Court heard Andrew Kane (62) of Old Farm Lane, Stanbridge, flew his Gazelle helicopter into restricted airspace, put in place to protect the Red Arrows’ display, at an air show at Old Warden aerodrome at Shuttleworth in May this year.
Pleading guilty to the offence at a hearing on 9 August, as well as an additional charge relating to inadequate preparation for his flight, Mr Kane was fined £2,500. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which brought the prosecution was awarded costs of £500. In passing sentence, the Chair of the Bench said both offences were extremely serious. Mr Kane’s pilot licence has been suspended by the CAA since the incident occurred.
The CAA said that it was determined to tackle the problem of pilots infringing restricted or controlled airspace, in order to protect public safety. Pilots are legally obliged to check for any airspace restrictions that may affect their journey as part of their pre-flight planning routine; such information is readily available through multiple sources.
A temporary restricted area such as the one in place for the Red Arrows display is always the subject of a Notice to Airmen (known as a NOTAM), a technical brief aimed specifically at pilots. These briefs can be found on official websites and automated telephone hotlines, as well as commercial flight planning tools available online and via apps.
The Red Arrows have experienced similar incidents in the past. In 2013 they were forced to halt a display at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone after a light aircraft infringed the airspace around their display.
The CAA may now provisionally suspend a pilot’s licences, where appropriate, for airspace infringements, pending further investigation.
The CAA is also reminding pilots of their responsibility to check all aspects of their pre-flight planning and that infringements are not acceptable. Infringements such as this can lead to significant penalties including the loss of your pilot licence. Pilots now have multiple ways to access the relevant information via the internet and mobile apps, which has made infringements of restricted airspace avoidable.