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Pilot of American Redstart 'twitch plane' guilty of endangering life

Robert Murgatroyd was piloting the light aircraft carrying three birders when it crashed into a potato field next to the M62

A pilot has today been found guilty of breaching aviation laws after his overloaded plane crashed near the M62.

Robert Murgatroyd, who only holds a private licence, accepted £500 each to fly a group of birdwatchers from Barton aerodrome, Manchester, to the Isle of Barra.

He made no effort to weigh his three passengers - who were on a trip to see the American Redstart in the Outer Hebrides - or their luggage.

Moments after take-off, the Piper A-28 - known as a Piper Cherokee - clipped tree tops and crash-landed in a potato field 150 metres from the motorway. It had criss-crossed the road twice prior to the collision on 9 September 2017, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Murgatroyd’s passengers, who could smell the leaking fuel, climbed out of the plane to safety but suffered severe bruising.

American Redstart, Eoligarry, Western Isles, (© Will Soar)

Nicola Wells for the CPS said: “Robert Murgatroyd’s reckless actions could have had fatal consequences that day. Out of pure greed he put his passengers, road users and anyone else in the immediate area’s lives at risk.

“Throughout the case he denied he was responsible in any way for the plane crash or that he had flown it for profit. In police interviews he described himself as a hero for the way he handled the forced landing and said that there should be a Hollywood film made about him.

“However the CPS presented to the jury the overwhelming evidence against him proving he charged his passengers £500 each, filled the fuel tanks to the brim, made no checks on the weight of the full plane and had the wrong flight manual on board.

“An aviation expert witness described him as grossly negligent and said he had failed in his responsibilities as pilot in command. The jury after hearing all the evidence against him have found him guilty of all the charges he faced.”

Robert Murgatroyd was convicted of the following charges:

  • Endangering the safety of an aircraft
  • Endangering the safety of a person
  • Illegal public Transport
  • Flying otherwise than in accordance with a licence
  • Flying otherwise than in accordance with any conditions/limitations contained in the aircraft flight manual
  • Failure to comply with the insurance regulation
  • Flying without the aircraft flight manual
  • Nicola Wells is a Senior Crown Prosecutor for the CPS North West region

 

19 Feburary 2019

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