NSW South Coast man, 77-year-old Victor Hansen was a licenced pilot. He was rated to fly only in daylight and when weather conditions allowed him to see where he was going. He used his helicopter to regularly travel between the three proprieties he owned across the South Coast area.
On 24 April 2011 at 17:00 hours, Hansen and his wife set out on his Robinson R44 helicopter. Hansen’s helicopter was not equipped for night flying. He did not obtain an authorised weather forecast before departure and did not know the weather forecast for his destination.
While heading north towards Berry, weather conditions worsened as rain and dark clouds appeared.
At 17:50 hours Hansen decided he could not continue to Berry because he encountered a cloud bank. Hansen diverted his flight southbound to Malua Bay where he had a helicopter landing site. Aviation experts estimated the flight time to Malua Bay would be approximately 35 to 37 minutes—meaning Hansen would certainly be flying the aircraft in darkness knowing he was unqualified to fly at night and that the helicopter was not appropriately equipped with instrumentation for night flight.
It was alleged that sometime after 18.10 hours Hansen flew his helicopter into the ocean off Lilli Pilli while flying towards Malua Bay. Hansen was rescued but tragically Mrs Hansen died.
Hansen was charged with one count of operating an aircraft and being reckless as to whether the manner of operation could endanger the life of another person under section 20A (1) and section 29(3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth).
Hansen pleaded not guilty and the matter was heard in the Batemans Bay Local Court over six days between 27 March and 1 September 2014.
His Honour, Magistrate Dick found the offence proven and Hansen was later convicted.
Hansen then lodged an appeal against his conviction to the NSW District Court. On 17 June 2015 the appeal was dismissed and the sentence confirmed.
Charge and sentence
Victor Arthur Hansen was charged with:
- one count of operating an aircraft being reckless as to whether the manner of operation could endanger the life of another person contrary to section 20A (1) and section 29(3) of the Civil Aviation Act 1988 (Cth).
Hansen’s conviction was confirmed on 17 June 2015 and without passing sentence Hansen was released upon entering into a recognizance to be of good behaviour for two years in the self-sum of $5000 pursuant to section 20(1)(a) of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth).