Longer sentence for Poulton air crash pilot who lied to insurers

Robert Murgatroyd
Robert Murgatroyd
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A Poulton pilot who crashed his plane has been handed more jail time after he failed to tell insurers that aircraft operated by him had previously been involved in three fatal crashes.

Robert Murgatroyd, 53, narrowly missed the M62 when he took off in his severely overloaded Piper Cherokee plane from Barton Aerodrome.

He was convicted of several offences in February under the Air Navigation Order and the Civil Aviation Regulations following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.

The court heard that, on September 9 2017, Murgatroyd piloted a Piper Cherokee light aircraft that was supposed to travel Barton Aerodrome, Manchester, to the Isle of Barra, Scotland, with three paying passengers on board.

Shortly after take-off, the aeroplane crossed the M62 motorway twice before clipping trees, descending and crashing into a field nearby.

Murgatroyd suffered a broken nose. One passenger suffered a cut to his hand, one suffered suspected cracked ribs and whiplash, and another suffered a serious cut to the head and severe bruising to his ribs.An investigation by the Civil Aviation Authority and Greater Manchester Police’s serious collision investigation unit found that the aircraft was 426lbs over the maximum take-off weight of 2150lbs.Murgatroyd was found guilty of:

- Recklessly endangering the safety of an aircraft or persons in an aircraft

- Recklessly endangering the safety of persons or property

- Conducting a public transport flight without an Air Operator Certificate

- Acting as a pilot without holding an appropriate licence

- Flying outside the flight manual limitations

- Flying without insurance

- Flying without the aircraft flight manual

He was jailed for three-and-half years.

Murgatroyd was back in Manchester Crown Court on Friday, where he pleaded guilty to an offence of fraud, of making a false declaration to obtain insurance.

In April 2017, five months before the crash, Murgatroyd was taking out insurance on the 45-year-old Piper Cherokee with Sydney Charles Aviation Insurance.

He was asked standard questions, including being asked for details of any accidents within the last five years involving the customer or any other pilot insured to fly the aircraft, and whether the customer had ever had any insurance cancelled or declined.Murgatroyd took out the policy, which cost him £965.25.Prosecutor Henry Blackshaw told the court that police investigations have subsequently revealed information that should have been disclosed to the insurers, and would likely have increased the price of the premium or meant he would have been refused insurance altogether.

In September 2016 Murgatroyd had an insurance policy cancelled, because he failed to keep up with payments.

In May 2013, an aircraft operated and insured by Murgatroyd was hired out to a pilot and it crashed at Caernarfon in Wales, killing one and seriously injuring 2 others.

Following that incident, in June 2014 Murgatroyd was convicted of flying an aircraft without a valid certificate of airworthiness, and was fined £300.

In October 2011, another aircraft operated and insured by Murgatroyd was hired to a pilot, and it crashed in Switzerland killing both occupants.

In February 2007, another aircraft operated by Murgatroyd crashed into the sea at Blackpool, killing the two occupants.

The police's investigation found that in the hours before taking out the insurance policy with Sydney Charles Aviation Insurance, Murgatroyd had been declined insurance from another firm.

They said that because Murgatroyd had previously operated under the name Fly Blackpool, the record for that operation must be disclosed. In two of the fatal crashes, he was operating as Fly Blackpool (Flybpl).The court heard that a pre-sentence report described Murgatroyd as a 'calculated risk taker'.

Judge Michael Leeming said Murgatroyd has a 'cavalier attitude to aviation', and sentenced him to a further 22 weeks in prison, to run consecutively to his three-and-a-half year term.

After the judge passed sentence, Murgatroyd, of Windy Harbour Road, Poulton-le-Fylde, asked whether he could address the court.

"No Mr Murgatroyd, you can't," Judge Leeming said, sending him down.