Lancashire

Helicopter pilot fined over mid-air rant at air traffic controller

Joel Tobias Image copyright Cavendish
Image caption Joel Tobias also has an Aston Martin car and a motorbike

A private helicopter pilot has been fined £1,600 after he subjected a female air traffic controller to a mid-air rant while attempting to land.

Businessman Joel Tobias, 52, was flying his family to Lytham St Annes in his chopper when he demanded to be able to land at Blackpool Airport.

Mr Tobias, from Whitefield, Greater Manchester, threatened to report Andrea Tolley when she asked him to wait.

He began berating her, claiming she had failed to return earlier messages.

During an angry exchange on 31 July, Mr Tobias told Miss Tolley he wanted her name and said: ''I'll be putting a complaint in," Manchester Magistrates' Court heard.

''Your job is actually to take calls from aircraft and not have two-way chats with other aircraft asking how their day's going and how fun it is," he told her.

''I'm in a helicopter here that costs £550 an hour and I've waited 10 minutes for you to answer the call - it's absolutely appalling.''

The cyber security businessman pleaded guilty to an offence under the Air Navigation Order 2016. He was fined and also ordered to pay £870 in costs and surcharges.

Alison Slater, prosecuting for the CAA said: ''He gave Miss Tolley no time to ask him to pass his message as protocol requires.

''He did not give his location, altitude, destination or request permission to enter the aerodrome traffic zone. Potentially it caused a serious risk to other air traffic in the area.''

His licence was provisionally suspended following the incident and he will be subject to a regulatory interview by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to see if it will be reinstated.

Image copyright Cavendish
Image caption Joel Tobias had been flying his privately owned helicopter from Manchester to Blackpool

Miss Tolley had been dealing with various aircraft and had been helping guide a pilot who was lost when Mr Tobias contacted her.

When another pilot thanked the controller, Mr Tobias said sarcastically: ''If that's the service you expect from an airport like Blackpool then I feel sorry for you.''

The businessman did not take the matter further when he landed but was later reported by another pilot to the CAA over his conduct.

Miss Tolley said a colleague had to relieve her of duty following the row as she so upset and barely slept that evening.

She added: ''I had never experienced anything like this in my entire career.''

Tobias later apologised.

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