Pilot who landed on pier denies putting lives at risk

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The Independent Online

A commercial pilot landed his helicopter among dozens of holidaymakers on Clacton pier just so he could pick up his wife, a court was told yesterday.

A commercial pilot landed his helicopter among dozens of holidaymakers on Clacton pier just so he could pick up his wife, a court was told yesterday.

Tourists and children had to move out of the way of the helicopter as Derek Hammond, 51, from Broadstairs, Kent, brought it down on the end of the pier, Chelmsford Crown Court was told. He then stepped on to the pier, told staff there had been no problem and he had landed there simply to collect his wife.

Mr Hammond, who used to fly a public service to the pier, denies that he recklessly caused a helicopter to endanger people or property in July.

He also denies an alternative charge of negligently causing a helicopter to endanger people or property.

Julia Flanagan, prosecuting for the Civil Aviation Authority, told how a restaurateur saw the helicopter fly down on to the pier. She said children got as close as 20 yards to the aircraft before it finally landed and when pier staff asked why he landed there, Mr Hammond simply stated: "I am just waiting to pick up my wife."

She said he made "no attempt to move anybody away" before taking off in his Bell Jet Ranger helicopter. "Young children ran to touch the helicopter just before the engines started."

Keith Thomas, a flying standards officer for the Civil Aviation Authority, said that a safe landing at the pier would require a system of barriers ropes and safety marshals. He said he would not be prepared to land a helicopter in an area where people were "milling about". "People have run into tail rotors of helicopters and have been killed," he said.

Mr Hammond had told the CAA he took the helicopter from Ramsgate and believed he had permission to land at the pier. He told the CAA he waited until people who were looking up at him had dispersed before landing and claimed there were only two people in the area at the time.

The trial continues.

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