7 Mar 2012

Operations manager gives evidence in pilot's trial

10:04 pm on 7 March 2012

A former Queenstown Airport operations manager says there was confusion about whether a Pacific Blue pilot had operated his plane outside safety rules.

The pilot, who has name suppression, has been charged with carelessly operating a Boeing 737 when he took off after the minimum safe daylight hours on 22 June 2010. The flight had 70 passengers and crew on board and was bound for Sydney.

The airport operations manager in June 2010, Daniel de Bono, told the Queenstown District Court on Wednesday he stood with airport chief executive Steve Sanderson in his office to watch the jet take off.

Mr de Bono said his ground staff had indicated that the jet would be staying overnight and he had begun to prepare a plan to process disembarking passengers.

Following the departure, he went to check whether the plane had left after the daylight curfew time and was not sure.

In cross-examination, Mr de Bono was surprised to learn that airlines had varying policies on how close to the daylight curfew they could take off.

Plane took off in whiteout conditions - witness

A witness described seeing a Pacific Blue jet take off in whiteout conditions.

Robert Clark watched from his home on a hill overlooking Queenstown Airport and told the court on Wednesday he was surprised at the angle of the plane and the fact the cloud was so low.

Mr Clark says he could see the lights of the Boeing through the mist as it levelled off at an alarmingly low level.

He says it banked sharply over the Kelvin Heights Golf Course before he lost sight of it behind trees.

Mr Clark described the conditions as a whiteout, with low cloud covering the tops of the surrounding hills.