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Business Air News Bulletin
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BACA hopes that illegal charter prosecution will set precedent
BACA has engaged with the UK CAA, raising concerns about cost-sharing websites and a lack of public awareness about the law. A recent birdwatching flight did not adhere to the rules and went badly wrong.

BACA - The Air Charter Association has declared itself pleased with the verdicts of a jury in the case of Robert Murgatroyd, a private pilot who organised the illegal charter of a light aircraft to take three birdwatchers from Manchester City airport to Barra, on the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The aircraft was almost 500lbs over the maximum take-off weight and subsequently clipped trees before crashing into a field, causing significant injuries to everyone on board. Fortunately, the accident did not result in a fatal tragedy.

The jury at Manchester Crown Court in the UK found him guilty of conducting a public transport flight without an AOC, recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft or persons in an aircraft, recklessly endangering the safety of persons or property, acting as a pilot without holding an appropriate licence, flying outside the flight manual limitations and flying without insurance.

BACA says that the case is symptomatic of a wider problem caused by the blurring of the line between commercial and private aircraft operations, adding that the current regulatory regime does not adequately protect the boundary and has left members of the public exposed to risks of which they are largely unaware.

The association has recently engaged extensively with the UK CAA about its concerns with the development of flight cost-sharing websites and the lack of public awareness about the law and implications of paying for flights on non-commercial aircraft. It is concerned about the public understanding of the lower standards of maintenance, pilot training and flight planning, as well as the highest risks involved for the passengers, when compared to commercial air transport flights. Chairman Richard Mumford comments: “We are relieved to see a successful prosecution by the UK CAA of this individual. We represent the interests of over 250 companies involved in legal aircraft charter, and we have become increasingly concerned at the way cost sharing and short-term day leasing is being seen as an easy way of circumventing the very clear laws on chartering aircraft. This accident appears to have been entirely preventable and was operated in flagrant disregard for the law.

“We hope that this verdict, and the subsequent custodial sentence in March, will focus the minds of private pilots considering pushing the boundaries when it comes to cost-sharing, especially with the relative ease that websites and apps allow them to advertise flights to the general public who are largely unaware of the dangers and risks involved. We also hope that it will help to raise awareness and understanding among members of the public to enable them to make informed decisions about how and with whom they choose to fly.”

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