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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

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Journey over Barrow no-fly zone cost plane enthusiast £4k

AN aviation enthusiast who flew a surveillance plane through a no-fly zone over Barrow has been ordered to pay more than £4,000 by a court.

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FINED Robert Knowles lost control of his remote controlled plane while flying it off the slag banks on Walney ChannelHARRY ATKINSON

Robert Knowles, 46, of King Street, Dalton, was found to be in control of an unmanned aircraft which travelled within 50 metres of Walney Bridge and over the BAE shipyard on August 25.

The aircraft crashed into Walney Channel and was recovered by a BAE employee.

A camera on the plane filmed its journey and Knowles was only identified due to it capturing his car registration number as it set off.

It is against air regulations to fly aircraft over the BAE facility without permission from the Civil Aviation Authority, and Knowles was convicted at Furness Magistrates’ Court yesterday for failing to comply with air regulations.

He was fined £800 for being both the controller and operator of the plane, and was ordered to pay £3,500 in court costs and a £40 victim surcharge.

District judge Gerald Chalk said: “The evidence is relatively clear cut. The aircraft had a camera on it and the film has been shown to me.

“It shows the route the aircraft took over the bridge and over the nuclear facility. It shows a man operating the aircraft and a parked car.”

Furness Magistrates’ Court heard that Knowles had carried out seven flights from Walney on the day, using an aircraft that had a wingspan of 1.35m and weighed 1.86kg.

He used a sensor from the aircraft to follow each flight on a laptop.

Knowles failed to attend his court case yesterday and his defence lawyer was withdrawn as a result.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to two counts of failing to comply with air regulations on the basis that he was not in control of the plane.

Alison Slater, prosecuting on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority, said that the video footage showed Knowles launching the aircraft, incriminating himself in the process.

She said: “The footage was taken to Greater Manchester Police for analysis. The aircraft was in the charge of Mr Knowles and he was the operator.”

Following the hearing, Knowles said he was considering launching an appeal against the court verdict.

Have your say

Please respect no fly zones. We do not want to get our hobby restricted out of our own fault. Incidents like this one can easily lead to tightening of the rules. This could have been so easily avoided. Don't fly in a restricted BAE zone or any other restricted area for that matter !

Posted by nikolaos on 3 May 2014 at 00:33

I'm not sure if NWEM will even post my closing comments but hopefully they will as they are relevant and set the record straight on a number of points that 'Robbie' has made in his final comment which may leave some doubt in peoples minds about RC Model Aircraft.

It is not 'My' Club. I am only the elected secretary. You are quite right though the SLMFC does fly off Walney airfield but only with the kind permission of BAE SYSTEMS and under strict Airfield Operating Instructions which have incidentally been approved by the CAA.
I have never had an issue with the camera on your model and nor has BAE or the CAA as far as I can remember...It appears to be Mr Knowles and others that keep raising this. You were prosecuted for breaching the No Fly Zone not flying with a camera on your plane.
I resent Mr Knowles comment about the club frowning on anyone flying who is not in our club.
There are 2 clubs in the area and a number of sole flyers. We have no issue with any flying as long as they fly responsibly and are insured.
I too own a similar model to Mr Knowles as do a number of other club members in both clubs I would guess. We also operate some of the newest equipment on offer in the RC world with failsafes so the insinuation that Mr Knowles model is any newer or safer than any other model is not founded.
I attended to hear the facts rather than what people have said etc..and to listen to what Mr Knowles had to say in his defence.
It is a shame it came to this as this incident could have been avoided.
Correct set up of RC Aircraft is essential for obvious safety reasons with failsafes if signals are lost etc. Clubs like ours are here to help and advise people not to restrict their fun but its only fun if no one gets hurt physically or financially.

Posted by Wayne Butrler on 22 April 2014 at 18:23

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