13 Mar 2012

'Sheer luck' flight did not encounter problems

12:17 pm on 13 March 2012

A court has heard it was sheer luck that a Pacific Blue 737 that took off from Queenstown on 22 June 2010 did not strike any serious problems.

An expert witness, former Air New Zealand captain Colin Glasgow, says most pilots go for an entire career and never hear the cockpit warnings the pilot did on that day.

Mr Glasgow told the Queenstown District Court on Monday there was no option of a safe outcome had anything gone wrong with the aircraft on that day.

The flight had 70 passengers and crew on board and was bound for Sydney.

He says the aircraft almost did not make its minimum safe altitude to clear the mountains surrounding Queenstown on two engines, let alone allowing for any engine malfunction.

Mr Glasgow told the court all takeoffs must factor in the worst thing happening at the worst possible time.

He said the Pacific Blue captain ignored this by taking off after the airline's daylight curfew, as he never could have landed back at Queenstown in darkness on one engine.

He said the pilot left himself no other options and put 70 lives at risk and compromised his position to act in an emergency.

A 54-year-old Auckland pilot, who has name suppression, has been charged with carelessly operating the Boeing 737.