6 Jul 2012

Co-pilot had safety fears about Queenstown flights

11:20 pm on 6 July 2012

The co-pilot of a Pacific Blue jet that flew out of Queenstown after the airport's daylight curfew time in 2010 had safety concerns about the airline's procedures, a court has been told.

The pilot, who has name suppression, is charged with carelessly operating the Boeing when taking off from the airport on 22 June 2010.

Co-pilot Christian Rush was giving evidence at the Queenstown District Court on Friday and said he loathed flying into the resort town in the South Island because he felt Pacific Blue had not given him enough training.

The court was told the co-pilot had flown to Queenstown only three times before the flight in June 2010 and his training consisted of book-based testing but nothing in a simulator, which made him very uneasy.

Mr Rush said his worst-case scenario was if the pilot had a heart attack, he would have to assume control of the plane and guide it through the very complicated Queenstown air circuit back to the runway and felt he was not fully trained for that.

Mr Rush believed procedures that must be performed made the flight into Queenstown unsafe.

He said the co-pilot must carry out numerous checks while also looking out of the window at the terrain while helping the pilot fly the looping figure of eight circuit to get to the runway. He said that he did not like it and requested more straightforward flights to other destinations.

Mr Rush told the court he reported his concerns about procedures into Queenstown to Pacific Blue management, but felt they were largely ignored.

When asked if he reported his anxiety about safety to the internal investigation about the flight, Mr Rush said he had not, because he thought his previous worries about safety had fallen on deaf ears within the airline.

However, Mr Rush backed up the pilot's account that the flight in June 2010 was conducted safely.