Pilot fined after putting residents at risk with low flight over Peterborough

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A pilot who flew his plane over Peterborough so low a resident thought it was in danger of crashing has been fined at court.

Richard Townsend (48) of Panswell Lane, Wisbech, was flying his Beechcraft plane at about 6.15pm on March 25 when the resident spotted the aircraft low over Peterborough.

Peterborough Magistrates' Court

Peterborough Magistrates' Court

The resident reported the matter to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who found Townsend had been flying just 360 feet above the ground. Later he flew even lower over Wisbech St Mary, at just 290 feet.

Today (Tuesday) Peterborough Magistrates’ Court heard that if the plane had a problem, Townsend would only be able to glide for half a mile before landing - which could have put residents lives at risk.

Chair magistrate Sue Brenchley fined him £1,700, and ordered him to pay £170 victim surcharge and £750 court costs.

Alison Slater, prosecuting for the CAA told the court: “The resident said he was concerned the aircraft was in difficulty.”

She said he tracked the plane on an app, discovering the plane’s registration mark, and reported it to the CAA.

Mrs Slater said: “As it orbited Peterborough, the plane descended from a height of 890 feet above the ground to 360 feet above the ground.

“As it flew above Wisbech St Mary, it was just 290 feet above the ground.”

The court was told Townsend was on a pleasure flight to and from Fenland, and the route home happened to have Peterborough and Wisbech on the way home - giving him the chance to fly over his own home.

In interview, Townsend accepted that at 300 feet, the aircraft would only have been able to glide for half a nautical mile, reducing his options for emergency landings.

He represented himself at court, apologising for his actions and promising not to fly in such a manner in the future.

Townsend pleaded guilty to:

Pilot in command of aircraft flying over congested area below required height limits

On 25/03/2018 at Peterborough, being the pilot in command of an aircraft, which flew over a congested area at Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in

contravention of SERA 5005(f)(1) being at a height of less than 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a radius of 600m of the aircraft.

Contrary to Article 265(6) of the Air Navigation Order 2016.

and

Pilot in command of aircraft flying below 500 feet

On 25/03/2018 at Wisbech,St Mary Cambridgeshire, being the pilot in command of an aircraft, which flew at a height of less than 500 feet above

the ground in contravention of SERA 5005(f)(2).

Contrary to Article 265(6) of the Air Navigation Order 2016.