An air ambulance hero flew a plane over an RAF base holding an air show before turning into the path of a passenger jet, a court was told.
Poulton pilot Joe Drury, 36, was on the last leg of a trans-Atlantic flight when he entered a no-fly zone and, when ordered to get out by air traffic controllers, veered towards a Boeing 757, which can carry up to 295 people.
He admitted flying his light aircraft over RAF Cosford in Shropshire – a restricted area – and was fined £1,250 and told to pay costs of £825 after being hauled before magistrates in Blackpool by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
Drury, who has logged thousands of hours in the air ferrying planes around the globe and also flew mercy missions for the air ambulance, told The Gazette: “Everyone makes mistakes.
“In most people’s jobs, not a lot happens when you do, but in my job you’re not given the opportunity to err for obvious reasons.
“I admitted everything. I didn’t try to mitigate or make excuses, I’m a professional pilot.
“I didn’t deliberately disobey any rules, I just made a mistake.
“It will cost me a lot of money while I’m not able to fly, but I have no hard feelings over the Civil Aviation Authority. I have apologised to all concerned.”
Magistrates were told Drury had put his own plane – a single engine Piper PA-28 – and the Boeing in danger by not downloading the up-to-date flying restrictions, which meant he was unaware of the annual RAF Cosford air show last June.
Flying from Lancashire to Oxford to complete the delivery of a plane from America, he went over the aerodrome and received warnings from both Birmingham air traffic control and the air force base’s own officers.
At around 2,000 feet, he changed course – and entered the larger jet’s air space “bubble”, the court was told. Both had to veer away to avoid a mid-air collision, it also heard.
But Drury, who lives in Little Poulton Lane, said: “I was about two or three miles away from the Boeing but the collision avoidance system in both planes kicked in.
“There was no risk of collision.
“The first time I realised there was a problem was when air traffic control told me I was in a restricted area. I took evasive action as soon as I could, and then the collision avoidance kicked in.
“I acted straightaway and got out of there.
“I have flown planes over the Atlantic about 30 times in the last year, it is something I have regular experience of.
“This was just a mistake.”
Drury, who have previously appeared on a BBC Radio Four programme about his work, The Last Adventure in Aviation, told the hearing he emailed apologies to all concerned within an hour of landing, and has been suspended from flying since.
He told the court:”I am still awaiting the outcome of the official report on what happened. The suspension of my pilot’s licence has had a severe impact on my income.
“What I did was a genuine mistake. I am very sorry.”
Drury had his pilot’s licence suspended when he was 27 and jailed for telling police he had not been driving his car when it was caught speeding.
He claimed his ex-Icelandic girlfriend was behind the wheel and he was flying over Bordeaux in France at the time, but a police investigation revealed the woman was in Iceland – and his plane was in a hangar at Exeter Airport.
On his CV, former Rossall pupil Drury boasts of ferrying professional jockey Darryll Holland around in a private plane, and says he has completed more than 100 single-handed global ferry flights and “delivered aircraft to all corners of the globe”.
The RAF Cosford Air Show included an action-packed six-and-a-half hour flying display from modern military aircraft like the Typhoon, iconic vintage planes like the Hurricane, Red Arrows, and even Chinook helicopters. It was attended by around 60,000 visitors and hailed as a “major success” by organisers.
Nobody from the Civil Aviation Authority could be reached for a comment.