Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
Date 17 Nov 2011


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Senior Communications Adviser Emma Peel
Tel: 04 560 9646, or 027 272 3545


Pilot fined for low flying

A pilot has been sentenced today in the Rangiora District Court after making multiple low level flights with members of the public on board. He was fined $1000 and ordered to pay $130 court costs.

On 28 February 2010, the last day of the New Zealand Ladies Golf Open at Pegasus Golf Course near Christchurch, the pilot took several players and caddies for short scenic helicopter flights as a gift.

He repeatedly flew at heights significantly below the minimum safe height for non-congested areas of 500 feet, reaching at least as low as 200 feet.

Direct of Civil Aviation Steve Douglas reminds pilots that minimum safe heights are stipulated to provide safety margins for both pilots and the public on the ground.

"If an aircraft malfunctions, the closer it is to the ground, the less time the pilot has to conduct a safe emergency landing. In my view, this pilot unnecessarily placed his aircraft, his passengers and the members of the public walking the beach and golf course below him at increased risk.

"As the summer season of air shows, fly-ins and increased aviation activity approaches, this prosecution is a timely reminder to all pilots that the CAA is paying particular attention to ensuring minimum height rules are adhered to."

Click here (PDF) to read Rule 91.311 Minimum heights for VFR flights. It says that pilots cannot fly less than 1000 feet over a congested area (such as a town), or 500 feet elsewhere.

How the civil aviation system works in New Zealand (PDF)