RAF pilot Flt Lt Andrew Townshend cleared of lying over nosedive

Image source, Solent News and Photo Agency
Image caption,
Flt Lt Andrew Townshend told the court he had a passion for star-gazing

An RAF pilot accused of causing his plane to nosedive while using a digital camera has been cleared of lying to investigators.

Flt Lt Andrew Townshend was accused of dishonestly claiming the dive was caused by a technical fault.

A court martial heard the Voyager aircraft plummeted 4,400ft (1,341m) over the Black Sea on the flight from RAF Brize Norton to Afghanistan.

The 49-year-old was found not guilty of perjury and making a false record.

But Flt Lt Townshend admitted negligently performing a duty in relation to the Nikon camera colliding with the aircraft's control stick.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
The Airbus A330 Voyager aircraft (similar to the one pictured) plummeted 4,400ft in a matter of seconds

A board of RAF officers at Bulford, Wiltshire, heard crew and passengers thought they were going to die during the flight from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, on 9 February 2014.

The experienced pilot - who has served with the RAF for 30 years and completed 5,500 flying hours - had been using his camera to photograph other aircraft from the cockpit and had taken 95 shots that day.

He also told the court that he had been viewing the star-filled sky moments before the incident, as he had a passion for star-gazing.

Flt Lt Townshend, from Ruislip, west London, filled in his flight log stating he believed there had been an issue with the autopilot, but said he now accepted his camera must have knocked against it and deactivated it.

He will be sentenced on Friday at the same court.

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