Jail for flying instructor who helped millionaire get licence

A flying instructor has been jailed for six months after he lied to help a Yorkshire millionaire obtain his helicopter licence only weeks before he was killed in a crash,

Ian King. PIC: PA

Former Army captain Ian King, 53, certified that businessman Paul Spencer, who owned Country Baskets, had complied with all training exercises including the required solo flying hours enabling him to get his private licence in December 2007.

A month later, on January 26, Mr Spencer was piloting a Westland Gazelle helicopter when it crashed in the grounds of Rudding Park, Harrogate, killing him and his wife Linda.

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Jailing King yesterday at Leeds Crown Court, Judge Tom 
Bayliss QC said while no causal link could be made between King’s actions and the crash he had shown “complete and utter disregard” for the rules put in place by the Civil Aviation Authority for public safety.

It was made perfectly clear on the documentation he signed he was at risk of prosecution if he lied.

“Nevertheless you falsely stated Paul Spencer had satisfactorily completed the course of training required for granting of a licence when you knew perfectly well he hadn’t”.

The judge said after Mr Spencer’s death his son-in-law discovered an unofficial flying log which showed much of his training had been done before official registration for his training had been granted.

“You transposed those hours until the period after 21 November and falsely certified his log book.”

His official logbook sent in for his helicopter licence was a “work of fiction created to satisfy the Civil Aviation Authority”, said the judge.

Mr Spencer was not a novice pilot, since he was already qualified as a fixed wing pilot, but the judge said it appeared corners had been cut in his helicopter training and he had not done the hours of solo flying he should.

“The deliberate deception which you perpetrated was crucial in obtaining a pilot’s licence for Paul Spencer. Your actions risked putting an inexperienced individual at the helm of a helicopter.

“Whether or not it was Paul Spencer’s inexperience that led to the crash is immaterial; we simply do not know what caused his accident.

“But as an instructor you enjoyed a privileged position. You were in a position of trust and you participated in a deceitful and successful attempt to procure a licence for him.”

The judge said he had read many references on behalf of King. “I’m satisfied you are a proud working man.

“You have a reputation for honesty and integrity in your community, but that, I’m afraid, is only part of the story.”

The court heard King was convicted in 2006 of piloting a non UK registered helicopter for reward without Department of Transport permission and in 2009 fined for failing to produce his own 
log book to the Civil Aviation Authority when they were inquiring into Mr Spencer’s crash. That led to his suspension as an instructor.

“Those convictions demonstrates a propensity to act in a cavalier manner towards the authority regulating your profession,” said Judge Bayliss.

King, of Burns Way, Clifford, Wetherby, was convicted by a jury last month of making a false representation to the CAA to help Mr Spencer get his licence.

Jon Gregg, representing him, said Mr Spencer was an experienced pilot. “In my submission Mr King did not allow a novice to take to the skies. That is one thing he did not do.”

After the case a spokesperson for the CAA said: “Flight instructors have a duty to certify training truthfully and accurately.”