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What's the biggest fine or sentence ever imposed on a pilot?

Well, the drone infractions of which I speak were things like flying a drone too close to a person. This had a proposed maximum fine of £10,000 which is double the maximum possible fine you can get for causing someone a serious bodily injury by careless driving – which is a far, far worse offence. Either the fine for flying a drone too close to an uninvolved person is far too high, or the fine for actually seriously injuring someone by careless driving is much too low.

In fact the maximum fine here for causing death while driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured is only half that of the possible maximum fine for flying a drone a bit too close to a person.

Andreas IOM

alioth wrote:

In fact the maximum fine here for causing death while driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured is only half that of the possible maximum fine for flying a drone a bit too close to a person.

This seems to be a particular problem in the UK. In Germany (and in many other countries I know), the maximum for doing these thing is actually going to jail for some years. so much more than these 5k it seems to be in Britain…

But then I agree: The penalties for traffic offenses seem to be much too low.

Germany

The verdict was based on an Annex 13 report, which, by definition should not be used for legal proceedings. As we know, Switzerland unfortunately does not honor this.

Whose definition is that? Factual evidence from the report is admissible in court (see e.g. Bolick vs. Sunbird Airlines). Probable cause and hearsay are not.

The court is within its rights to use factual evidence and determine probable cause on its own.

T28
Switzerland

ICAO. And every single Annex 13 report states it in it’s pre-amble.

LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

ICAO

I guess that is a common misunderstanding of 3.1 of Annex 13. There ICAO states “It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability.”

This does not say, however, that the report must not or should not be used in a legal proceeding which purpose exactly is to apportion liability. It only says that this is not the purpose of the report/investigation.

In practice, this implies that an accident report stops at the factual analysis “the pilot has done xxx wrong”. It doesn’t need to evaluate, whether the pilot can be blamed or held responsible for doing that wrongly…

Germany

Actually, upon review of the Swiss DR400 case it appears that the conviction was overturned not because “the investigation report was pulled / wrong”, but because the prosecution failed to demonstrate negligence in the calculation of weight and balance. cf. https://bstger.weblaw.ch/cache/pub/cache.faces?file=20210529_CA_2019_29.htm&ul=de

With regards to court usage, 49 USC 1154 states that no part of the full accident report may be used in civil proceedings for damages however the court can grant parties access to video or audio recording transcripts (i.e. the factual part), and noticeably makes no mention of the report not being usable in criminal proceedings.

Further, 49 USC 1131 says

(3)This section and sections 1113, 1116(b), 1133, and 1134(a) and (c)–(e) of this title do not affect the authority of another department, agency, or instrumentality of the Government to investigate an accident under applicable law or to obtain information directly from the parties involved in, and witnesses to, the accident. The Board and other departments, agencies, and instrumentalities shall ensure that appropriate information developed about the accident is exchanged in a timely manner.

So it would appear that an investigative board having a duty to provide accident information to state prosecutors for criminal proceedings isn’t exactly a Swiss-only thing.

Last Edited by T28 at 16 Jul 21:59
T28
Switzerland

T28 wrote:

So it would appear that an investigative board having a duty to provide accident information to state prosecutors for criminal proceedings isn’t exactly a Swiss-only thing.

Well, the temptation to do this is obvious and in a way also reasonable, as where would a court usually find good expertise but with the TSB’s. However, it is not in the sense of Annex 13, which has defined those reports to be there for safety improvement only. So it is not surprising that several states have gone that way, even with restrictions.

T28 wrote:

Actually, upon review of the Swiss DR400 case it appears that the conviction was overturned not because “the investigation report was pulled / wrong”, but because the prosecution failed to demonstrate negligence in the calculation of weight and balance. cf.

Thank you for the link. The verdict is very interesting to read. It is correct that the pulling of the investigation report is not the direct reason for overturning the verdict, however:

- The verdict notes that calculations presented by the investigators included in the report were factually wrong (which may be one of the reasons it was pulled)
- Witnesses confirmed the fact that exact determination of fuel quantity of this airplane the way the report demanded was difficult and the way it was determined by the accused pilot was according to procedures in place.
- The expert witnesses state clearly that the procedures in place for determining weight and balance were followed by the accused were adequate (which the report had claimed wasn’t) and that there were no requirements in place or in use which would have warranted additional scrutiny by the PIC regarding weighing of the passengers.
- The criticism voiced in the report, the plane had been rotated early and been flown at a too high angle of attack, causing the crash, was contested by expert statements to a sufficient degree, that the court determines that the doubts that the plane was flown in this condition were too high to allow a conviction.

A factoid: The “overweight” determined by the report of the airplane was only around 5 kg. The WnB calculated by the pilot had given an underload of around 38 kgs, the additional weight around 40 kgs.

The overturning of the verdict therefore was caused by the determination by the court that the reasoning for the conviction were in parts factually wrong and in parts regarded as not proven with sufficient credibility.

This revision by the high court has quite a bit of impact: Following the initial conviction (which btw was a suspended sentence), the lower court basically determined that it was the duty of the commander to weigh passengers rather than to ask them for their weight (as it has been practice up to the 1st verdict). This could have had massive implications not only for GA, as passenger weights in commercial aviation is often determined by IATA Standard weights. This would in this logic have been questionable to say the least. Had the verdict stood, the practice of weight and balance determination for ANY passenger-flight would have had to be changed to weighing of every single passenger and load item before every flight, quite possibly for all sorts of flying.

I’ve noticed that the defense lawyer for the pilot was a very well known aviation law specialist who is also the resident lawyer for the Aeroclub of Switzerland. I know him and he is very good indeed.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 17 Jul 09:27
LSZH, Switzerland

Mooney_Driver wrote:

, it is not in the sense of Annex 13, which has defined those reports to be there for safety improvement only.

Sorry, but cab you quote the respective text in Annex 13 that say that? I mean that it is for safety improvement “only”?

T28 wrote:

Further, 49 USC 1131 says

That is some local US law – completely irrelevant in Europe.

Last Edited by Malibuflyer at 17 Jul 09:42
Germany

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Had the verdict stood, the practice of weight and balance determination for ANY passenger-flight would have had to be changed to weighing of every single passenger and load item before every flight, quite possibly for all sorts of flying.

I would love that. It would make ticket prices far more fair. I’m still pi$$Ed at Lufthansa for charging me another 100€ (actually good will from their side, they could have charged close to 150) on top of the ticket price for extra luggage weight. At that time me + luggage was just short of 100kg while the fat bloke in the other aisle clearly exceeded that without luggage and didn’t have to pay a single extra cent.

EDQH, Germany

Malibuflyer wrote:

Sorry, but cab you quote the respective text in Annex 13 that say that? I mean that it is for safety improvement “only”?

The accident investigation as such is not intended to “apportion blame or liability.” I can’t see that this would prevent the accident investigation to be used as evidence in a court of law.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden
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