A flight instructor who lied to obtain a helicopter licence for a multimillionaire who killed himself and his wife in a chopper crash just weeks later has been jailed for six months.
Ian King, 53, was found guilty of making a false statement to the Civil Aviation Authority with intent to deceive, after he certified that Paul Spencer had complied with all the training requirements and flown the required amount of hours.
Wealthy Paul Spencer, 43, the boss of Country Baskets, crashed his 250,000-pounds Westland Gazelle in the grounds of the plush Rudding Park Hotel in Harrogate, North Yorks, on January 26, 2008 - just weeks after his licence was granted in December 2007. He and his wife Linda, 59, died.
A jury had been told that Mr Spencer obtained his licence after King falsely certified to the authority that his student had complied with all the training requirements and flown the required amount of hours.
The trial heard how a record of Mr Spencer’s flying experience found in his papers was different to the hours recorded in the official flying log submitted for the licence.
Today at Leeds Crown Court, King was jailed for six months by Judge Tom Bayliss QC, who told him: “The deliberate deception which you perpetrated was crucial in obtaining the pilot’s licence.
“Your actions risked putting an inexperienced individual at the helm of a helicopter. Mr Spencer’s logbook was a work of fiction.
“Whether or not it was Paul Spencer’s inexperience that lead 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. You participated in a deceitful and successful attempt to procure a licence.”
The court also heard that King had a previous conviction for CAA breaches and has been banned from being an instructor since 2009.
To which Judge Bayliss commented: “These convictions demonstrates a propensity to act in a cavalier manner towards the authority regulating your profession.”
Martin Goudie, prosecuting at the trial, said that an investigation was made after the crash and among Mr Spencer’s papers a personal unofficial flying log was found suggesting he had not flown the required hours and that some of the hours he had flown were before November 19, the date he was licensed to begin his training.
Mr Goudie said: “Mr Spencer’s logbook - which was verified by Mr King - stated that he had flown for 51 hours which was more than the 45 hours required to obtain a licence.
“However, a personal flying sheet - which Mr Spencer kept - recorded a different set of hours which would have left him unqualified to fly.
“When you look at the solo hours flown - which is one requirement of being able to gain a licence - according to Mr Spencer’s records the amount totals 8.6 hours rather than the minimum requirement of 10.”
The court was also told that despite the log book showing Mr Spencer’s flying taking place only between November 19 and December 12 communication between the two men showed that flying had been taking place from the end of August before his logbook arrived.
When he finally got his logbook through, Mr Goudie claimed that King falsified the official logbook to make it appear Mr Spencer had completed the flying in the allotted time.
Jon Gregg, for King, of Wetherby, West Yorks, told the court that his client, a married father, was well respected within his community.
He added: “In my submission Mr King did not allow a novice to take to the skies. That is one thing that he did not do.”
A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said: “Flight Instructors have a duty to certify training truthfully and accurately.
“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.”
Mr Spencer and his wife, of Brighouse, West York, ran Country Baskets, a business which sold dried flowers, and were regular visitors to Harrogate’s Rudding Park Hotel, which has recently been voted the number one hotel in the UK.
The hotel also ranked fourth worldwide and second for hotels in Europe in the
research by TripAdvisor.
The couple’s 250,000-pounds helicopter had previously been owned by DJ Neil Fox.