A judge has fined a Pacific Blue pilot who he said was arrogant and had put passengers in danger when he flew a Boeing 737 out of Queenstown in June 2010.
Roderick Gunn was on Tuesday fined $5100 and had conditions imposed on his ability to renew his airline pilot's licence.
He flew his Boeing 737 from the resort town in near-darkness in June 2010 and was this month found guilty of carelessly operating an aircraft.
In sentencing at Queenstown District Court, Judge Kevin Phillips said Gunn was arrogant and showed no remorse after he was found guilty of flying the plane in breach of the airline's rule that permits departures in daylight hours only.
Judge Phillips said it was luck that prevented a catastrophe when Gunn decided to make up his own rules and ignore his airline safety manual.
He said the lives of the 64 passengers and crew were in real danger when the pilot flew the aircraft below 1000 feet as he tried to negotiate his way through low cloud and mountainous terrain.
Judge Phillips says Gunn's actions were alarming.
"You increased the risk of an absolute tragedy occurring. Your departure from the rules was a wilful decision. There was arrogance on the part of you that your experience and abilities would overcome rules of law."
The judge said he believed pressure from the airline to stay on time and pressure from his peers contributed to a situation where Gunn had to get the job done, despite warning signs indicating he should have never have taken off.
Gunn must undergo safety training and is prevented from flying into Queenstown as a captain in charge for 12 months.
He is still employed by Pacific Blue, now Virgin Australia, but will face a meeting with airline executives next week to discuss his future with the airline.