A pilot with 20 years’ flying experience under his belt has been fined £2,000 for landing his aircraft in poor visibility.
Cristin Leon Bouchet (52) - a former Secretary of the Jersey Aero Club - yesterday appeared in the Magistrate's Court, where he admitted the aviation offence after landing his plane in Jersey despite the visibility being below the minimum safety requirement.
The Court was told that on 16 November of last year, Mr Bouchet violated a part of the Air Navigation (Jersey) Law 2014 which relates to landing without a clear line of sight. The minimum landing distance for each pilot is calculated according to their qualifications and the aircraft they are flying.
The incident first came to the attention of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) – which has overall authority for ensuring the safety of Jersey and Guernsey airspace – when its Director Dominic Lazarus was alerted to the landing.
Pictured: Director of the CAA Dominic Lazarus referred the incident to the Police.
Eight days later on 28 November, it was then referred to Police, who launched a probe into the incident.
Mr Bouchet was convicted because he landed his plane when the visibility levels, measured from light detectors on the runway, were below his specified threshold.
Legal Adviser Simon Crowder, who appeared for the prosecution, told the court that Mr Bouchet had been the for many years, was flying his plane over to an air hangar in Bournemouth to get his radio repaired when the weather conditions on the South coast of the UK prevented him from landing.
He therefore made the decision to return to Jersey because of the adverse weather and informed Air Traffic Control of his intentions and, at this point, visibility was “sufficient” for him to land back in the island.
Pictured: The case was heard in the Magistrate's Court.
However, within a very short period of time – eight minutes – the weather changed over Jersey Airport and it “was operating under poor visibility conditions.”
Mr Bouchet was advised by Air Traffic Control that Alderney and various airports in France “could have accepted his aircraft” because the “weather was significantly better there.”
The Court also heard that, in the lead up to him landing at Jersey Airport that Air Traffic Control told him: “It’s up to you.”
This is because, Mr Crowder explained, the airport “cannot prevent a general aviation pilot [pilots of small, non-commercial aircrafts] from landing.”
It also transpired during Mr Bouchet’s approach that when he confirmed to ATC that he was heading for the runway, he was in fact heading towards Corbière Lighthouse because he didn’t realise that the instrument on his plane which assists with landing was faulty.
Advocate Estelle Burns, appearing for Mr Bouchet, added that the measurements of visibility on the runway is “not an exact science” and that her client was not aware of the “problem with his landing system” until he made the approach to land in Jersey.
Pictured: The pilot was represented by Advocate Estelle Burns (Voisin Law).
The defence Advocate emphasised that Mr Bouchet “did all his flight planning correctly” and underwent “constant weather monitoring” throughout the journey.
She explained that the reason he didn’t attempt to land in either Alderney or France was because he wasn’t “as familiar with those airfields” and there was a chance of him being turned away by French Air Traffic Control due to them not recognising a rating system used on UK pilot licences.
Advocate Burns said that Mr Bouchet has been flying for around 20 years and has “never had any previous incidents at all.”
“This is a man who is very safety conscious… [He] takes the privileges of a licence very seriously,” the Advocate urged.
Taking into account Mr Bouchet’s guilty plea and the fact that it had taken some time for the matter to come to Court, Assistant Magistrate Peter Harris imposed a fine of £2,000
As aviation-related disciplinary action lies outside the Court's authority, the CAA will now have to make any further decisions regarding Mr Bouchet's licence or whether he needs to undergo any further training following his aviation law breach.
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