Pilot jailed after injuring passengers in crash near M62

Robert MurgatroydImage source, GMP
Image caption,
Robert Murgatroyd was jailed for three years and six months for a range of offences

A "greedy and reckless" pilot who crashed his plane, narrowly missing a motorway and injuring three passengers, has been jailed.

Robert Murgatroyd, 52, charged his passengers £500 each for a birdwatching trip, leaving from City Airport in Barton, Greater Manchester.

But the plane was over its weight limit and came down near the M62.

Murgatroyd was convicted of endangering his passengers and was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

He was also found guilty of six further offences relating to the crash on the morning of 9 September 2017.

Police said the pilot had endangered "dozens" of lives as he sought to "make a quick buck".

Image source, GMP
Image caption,
The Piper PA-28 light aircraft crashed in a potato field close to the M62

Manchester Crown Court heard the pilot intended to fly to the Isle of Barra but the Piper PA-28 light aircraft was more than 400lbs over its weight limit.

Murgatroyd filled the fuel tanks to capacity but set off without making checks on the weight of the full plane, and with the wrong flight manual on board.

After crossing the M62 near the airport twice, the plane crashed into a field.

The pilot broke his nose in the crash, one passenger suffered a cut to his hand, another passenger suffered suspected cracked ribs and whiplash, and a third passenger suffered a serious cut to the head and severe bruising to his ribs.

Image source, GMP
Image caption,
An aerial photo of the crash showed how close the plane had come to the motorway

Murgatroyd, of Poulton-le-Fylde in Lancashire, was also found to be flying without an appropriate licence, the court heard.

Although he held a private pilot's licence, he was not allowed to run commercial flights, meaning his insurance was invalid.

Speaking after the sentencing, Sgt Lee Westhead, of Greater Manchester Police, lambasted Murgatroyd's "utter stupidity" and "greedy and reckless actions".

"Make no mistake, this could quite easily have been a truly terrible disaster, all caused because one man saw an opportunity to make a quick buck," he said.

"Murgatroyd endangered the lives of dozens of people that day, including those of motorists passing beneath his overloaded plane on the M62.

"That this crash only resulted in two relatively minor injuries is extremely fortunate."

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 flight manual limitations
  • Flying without insurance

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