Pilot escapes jail sentence

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A Lincolnshire businessman who flew over the county in his light aircraft without a valid pilot’s licence was today (Friday) spared jail by a judge.

50-year-old John Hornby admitted taking a four minute flight from Wickenby airfield to a landing strip on a farm near Market Rasen in July last year.

Lincoln Crown Court heard at the time of the flight Hornby had no insurance for his Tomohawk plane and the aircraft also did not have a valid airworthiness certificate.

James Cleary, prosecuting, told the court Hornby managed to fly over agricultural land for much of the journey which was estimated to have taken just under five minutes.

Mr Cleary said engineers reported seeing the plane taking off from Wickenby airfield and an hour later Hornby texted the owner of the landing strip to inform them he had landed.

The court heard Hornby had been without a valid pilot’s licence since his previous documentation had expired in November 2007.

Mr Cleary said the plane’s airworthiness certificate had also expired in May last year when Hornby became involved in a dispute with a company who were carrying out maintenance on the aircraft.

Dale Brownless, mitigating, told the court Hornby bought the plane in January last year but decided to move it after the firm carrying out work on the aircraft charged him for more repairs than he had asked for.

“He undertook preliminary checks to make sure it was airworthy before he took off, using his vast knowledge and experience, and had turned the engine over the night before,” Mr Brownless said.

Mr Brownless added that Hornby had been involved with planes since the age of 13 but at the time of the flight he did not know his pilot’s licence needed to be renewed and he believed his business partner had insured the plane.

Hornby, of Dunholme Road, Welton, admitted three charges of flying without a licence, insurance and airworthiness certficate on 26 July last year.

He was placed under the supervison of a probation officer for 12 months and prohibited from being crew on any aircraft for a year.

Passing sentence Recorder Paul Mann QC told Hornby: “On 26 July at 8.30pm you took a flight in a light aircraft which you had no business to do.”