9 Mar 2012

Witnesses to jet's takeoff cross-examined

6:10 am on 9 March 2012

Witnesses at a hearing of a pilot accused of carelessly operating an aircraft have been cross-examined about weather conditions when the Pacific Blue jet took off from Queenstown Airport in June 2010.

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

Video footage from inside the cabin was also shown in the court.

The video footage, taken by two professional cameramen, appears to show a slightly bumpy departure, flying low over houses before being enveloped in cloud.

It does not show the aircraft performing erratic movements and passengers in the cabin seem calm.

All the witnesses so far have described seeing low cloud covering the top of Peninsula Hill when the jet took off.

Defence lawyer Matthew Muir has shown each of them CCTV footage of the jet taking off which shows the top of the top of Peninsula Hill clearly visible.

Another witness at the hearing in Queenstown District Court described fearing the jet would clip trees as it banked sharply in a severe snow storm.

Mr Muir showed him evidence from MetService which indicated there was no snow at the airport as the jet took off, and suggested the storm was simply between his view and the plane.