A flying instructor whose student died in a helicopter crash in North Yorkshire has been 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 only weeks before the tragedy, a judge at Leeds Crown Court said.
Mr Spencer, a wealthy businessman, and his wife Linda died when the helicopter he was piloting came down in Rudding Park resort, Harrogate, in January 2008.
King, of Burns Way, Clifford, near 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 Mr Spencer, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire, had done 51.3 hours of training, the minimum being 45 hours.
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 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.