Pilot found guilty of seven charges after accident

The CAA) has welcomed the conviction of a pilot, following an aircraft crash in 2017 in which the pilot and passengers were injured.

Robert Murgatroyd, 52, of Poulton-le-Flyde, Lancashire, was convicted of several offences under the Air Navigation Order and the Civil Aviation (Insurance) Regulations following a trial at Manchester Crown Court.

The Court heard that Robert Murgatroyd was the pilot of a Piper Cherokee light aircraft flying three paying passengers from Barton Aerodrome in Manchester to the Isle of Barra in Scotland on 9 September 2017.

Shortly after take-off the aeroplane crossed the M62 motorway twice before clipping trees by the motorway, descending and crashing into a field close to the motorway.

The pilot suffered a broken nose; one passenger suffered a cut to his hand; one suffered suspected cracked ribs and whiplash, while another suffered a serious cut to the head and severe bruising to his ribs.

Following an investigation by the CAA and Greater Manchester Police’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit, the aircraft was found to be 426lb over the maximum take-off weight of 2150lb and Robert Murgatroyd was subsequently charged with:

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 the flight manual limitations

Flying without insurance

Flying without the aircraft flight manual.
He was convicted of all seven charges and will be sentenced on 15 March.

Speaking after the trial, Alison Slater, Head of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s Investigation and Enforcement Team, said, “This was a very serious incident that could have ended with fatalities.

“Robert Murgatroyd has been found guilty of numerous offences, which collectively display a serious disregard for the safety of his passengers and the public.

“We hope his convictions will deter other pilots from ignoring the law for personal profit.”

UK Civil Aviation Authority

[Photo top: courtesy of Greater Manchester Police]



  1. No pilot should take off overweight. I do feel there are a few trumped up charges thrown in too for good measure. How can he not have a licence? Had his medical expired of something?

    1. I think they mean he was not CPL, so he could not take “paying” passengers. It says operated without an AOC which means the plane cannot carry paying passengers. I assume he did not have the correct license required to do this.

  2. looks like officialdom nose out of joint trumped up charges
    However in saying it overloaded a/c I’d not funny.i have seen people die a very nasty death doing this down at sandown in pa28 140 crashed a d burnt to death. I feel sorry for the CAA trying to regulate against stupidity is a losing battle

    1. Trumped up charges? Really?

      Charging people on what was not a cost sharing flight when you don’t have a CPL or an AOC and taking off over 20% overweight off a wet grass runway seems to me to be much the same as standing in front of the CAA building at Gatwick with a large target on your chest saying “Prosecute me.”

    2. Not “trumped up” charges at all. By definition, there is no such thing if rules are proven to have been broken, whatever those rules are and no matter how serious or otherwise the breach may be, especially when it involves numerous offences and when others are put at risk. The pilot deserved everything he got and it is very fortunate that he didn’t kill somebody.

      Criticising the CAA, in any way, on this matter suggests a serious lack of judgement and a somewhat flawed thought process.

  3. There is no excuse for over weight. A Cherokee 140 with four people is a joke.
    However, the other charges? A fine line between cost share and a commercial flight. Wingly interests me, but frightens me at the same time. Think in the future there will be more charges for no aoc and commercial/cost share.. where is that line.
    I know of several people coming very close to commercial operations but on a cost share basis.
    I guess they get away with it nail it goes wrong!

    1. Cost sharing / Wingly requires that the pilot was going to making the flight anyway and has discretion over the planning, routing and timing of the flight. This looked much more like a charter.

    2. Peter Smith you need to reflect on your safety attitude. Your comment starting ‘however the other charges? Your tone endeavours to imply the other charges are not important. I cannot agree with your approach. Clearly no CPL or even PPL (we cannot tell exactly from the statement no appropriate licence), no insurance (which even f he had would have been invalidated I am sure) and crucially conducting a commercial flight without an AOC. All of these are wilful and deliberate disobeyance of regulations designed to ensure commercial operations are conducted by appropriately trained, licenced and insured individuals. You need to re-think your approach to air safety if you think for one second those other charges were not important and as relevant.

    3. Peter Smith there is no fine line between cost sharing by PPL pilots and commercial operations. I suspect when you say you know people coming very close to commercial operations you actually mean you know people accepting money for a flight which was not pre-planned but is to take place for the sole purpose of moving someone from A to B. I hope I am wrong because the regulations on cost sharing are clear as are those for commercial AOC approved work. There is definitely not any doubt unless a pilot chooses to wilfully disobey and flout the regulations.

  4. Yes that makes sense. Hence the no insurance and AOC. He should have cost shared and picked a bigger plane.

    1. Ian, what utter rubbish. They are NOT the same charges. Ask any lawyer. Are you seriously suggesting that the CAA prosecutes on the basis of financial gain? Bad attitude, sir!

  5. It bothers me that some of the above comments are made by qualified pilots, Mark, Ian and Peter have all made adverse comments about the CAA, I hope they are not pilots but just ill informed or lack understanding. Four people went home that day it could have been so different.

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