Private Pilots Are Responsible For Lives (Manchester Incident)

You might consider yourself a ‘gifted’ pilot. But if you persistently break the rules and disregard the importance of safety, then you’ll put yourself and others in serious danger. What’s more — you can land yourself in prison.

That’s precisely that happened to private pilot Robert Murgatroyd who was jailed for crash landing his plane after putting several lives at risk.


PHOTO: GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE

On September 2017 52-year old Robert Murgatroyd took three birdwatchers on a private flight, charging them £500 each to find a rare bird off the isle of Barra. Shortly after takeoff from Barton (Manchester City) Airport his Piper Cherokee 140 clipped trees close to the M62 Motorway and crashed landed in a nearby farmland.

An investigation by the CAA and Greater Manchester Police discovered that the aircraft was 426 lb over its 2,150 lb MTOW, and Murgatroyd was charged and convicted of seven charges:

  1. recklessly endangering the safety of persons in an aircraft
  2. recklessly endangering the safety of persons or property
  3. conducting a public transport flight without an Air Operators Certificate
  4. acting as pilot without holding an appropriate licence
  5. flying outside of the aircraft’s flight manual limitations
  6. flying without insurance
  7. flying without the POH (Pilots operating handbook).

Private Pilots Are Responsible For Lives (Manchester Incident)
PHOTO: GREATER MANCHESTER POLICE

This was the first crown court trial in the UK involving a pilot accused of reckless endangerment of an aircraft, and of illegal public transport. Sentencing Judge Michael Leeming pointed out to Murgatroyd: “Had your aircraft crash landed onto the motorway, fully laden with fuel as this aircraft was, I am sure that there would have been a scene of carnage and lives would have been lost”.

Murgatroyd has reportedly maintained that he’s a ‘hero’.


This case underlines the importance of abiding by all rules taught throughout your Pilot Training.