Flight instructor guilty of lying over Harrogate death crash

A FLYING instructor whose student died in a helicopter crash in North Yorkshire was today warned he may face jail after he was found guilty of lying to get him a pilot’s licence.

Former Army captain Ian King, 53, displayed a “gross breach of trust” by signing off Paul Spencer’s training records just weeks before the tragedy, a judge at Leeds Crown Court said.

Mr Spencer, a wealthy businessman, and his wife Linda, who ran the dried flower business Country Baskets, died when the helicopter he was piloting came down in Rudding Park resort, Harrogate, North Yorkshire in January 2008.

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King, of nearby 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 and will be sentenced next month.

Mr Spencer’s flying experience fell below what was required for a licence, the court has heard.

But 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.

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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 supported the unofficial record rather than the official log certified by King.

“I knew what I was signing for,” King told the court during the trial as he claimed Mr Spencer’s training was complete.

However, Martin Goudie, prosecuting, said King had shown “utter disregard” for the rules and the logbook was a work of “fiction”.

Judge Tom Bayliss told the defendant: “You’ve been convicted of this offence and it is, in my judgment, a serious matter.

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“It involves a breach of trust that was placed in you by the Civil Aviation Authority and shows a disregard on your part for the requirements imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

“You ought to be under no illusion that, in adjourning this case today, it is going to be dealt with by any other way than custody.”

Judge Bayliss bailed King to appear for sentencing on February 4 after pre-sentence reports have been prepared.

Following the sentencing, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “Flight instructors have a duty to certify training truthfully and accurately.

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“Following the tragic deaths of Paul and Linda Spencer, the CAA sought corroboration from Paul Spencer’s instructor, Ian King, of his certification of Mr Spencer’s training.

“No corroboration was found and the decision was taken to prosecute Mr King for falsely certifying the training.

“Today, a jury decided that Mr King had indeed made false representations in relation to Paul Spencer’s training.”