Pacific Blue pilot fined NZ$5,100 for reckless endangerment

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A Pacific Blue captain has been fined NZ$5,100 ($4,260) after being found guilty of recklessly endangering passengers in a 2010 incident at Queenstown.

The Queenstown District Court convicted Roderick Gunn of carelessly operating a passenger jet after he broke a number of regulations during a departure from Queenstown to Sydney on 22 June 2010 in a Boeing 737-800.

Among the regulatory breaches, Gunn took off from Queenstown in near darkness and briefed his first officer on the wrong emergency procedure for an engine failure during take-off.

Queenstown airport is surrounded by mountains, and at the time did not have runway lighting installed, leading Judge Kevin Phillips to find that "no reasonable and prudent pilot... would have commenced the take-off roll".

Gunn was charged by the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority following the incident, which led to a lengthy trial involving a number of expert witnesses, eventually resulting in a guilty verdict.

Besides the fine, Gunn has been ordered to undertake further training and has had a condition imposed on his pilot's licence preventing him from operating an aircraft into and out of Queenstown as a captain in charge for 12 months.

Now called Virgin Australia (New Zealand), Pacific Blue operates Virgin's services between Australia and New Zealand. It has a fleet of nine Boeing 737-800s.