Flying instructor jailed for lies
A flying instructor whose multimillionaire student died in a helicopter crash has been jailed for six months for lying to get him a pilot's licence.
Former Army captain Ian King, 53, falsely signed off businessman Paul Spencer's incomplete training records weeks before the tragedy, which also killed Mr Spencer's wife Linda.
While it was impossible to say whether King's actions caused the crash at Rudding Park resort in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in 2008, he showed "complete and utter disregard" for the rules and deliberately deceived authorities, a judge at Leeds Crown Court said.
King, of Clifford, near Wetherby, denied making a false representation with intent to deceive the Civil Aviation Authority but was found guilty by a jury after a week-long trial. Mr Spencer's flying experience fell below what was required for a licence and some of the hours were before the date he was licensed to begin his training, the court has heard.
King, who has two previous convictions for Civil Aviation Authority breaches and was suspended from acting as a flying instructor in 2009, signed off falsified logs in a bid to fast-track his licence. The logbook showed that Mr Spencer, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire, had done 51.3 hours of training, the minimum being 45 hours.
The jury of six men and six women was told by the Crown that phone records, emails sent by the businessman, fuel purchases and weather conditions contradicted the official log certified by King.
Judge Tom Bayliss said the former instructor, who is married and has a family, cut corners and was uncooperative throughout the investigation. "I'm satisfied you're a proud working man. You have a reputation for honesty and integrity in the community," Judge Bayliss told the defendant. "But that, I'm afraid, is only part of the story.
"Mr Spencer's logbook was a work of fiction. The missing exercises are difficult exercises, exercises carried out at the end of the training period. Your purpose was to deceive the Civil Aviation Authority into granting Paul Spencer a private pilot's licence.
"Your attitude, it seems to me, was one of complete and utter disregard for the Civil Aviation Authority's rules, put in place by them to protect public safety. Your actions have cost you dear. You have lost your livelihood. You will never instruct again.
"Your actions risked putting an inexperienced pilot at the helm of a helicopter. That sort of conduct is so serious in my judgment that only an immediate custodial sentence will do. For you it will be a hard burden."