Pilot who landed on car park roof banned


A MAN who flew 12 miles in a borrowed helicopter and then landed on the roof of a multi-storey car park in the middle of Athlone on a Saturday afternoon to get a set of keys cut was banned from flying for 12 months yesterday.

Seán O'Brien (50), The Island, Ballycumber, Co Offaly, was before Judge David Anderson at Athlone District Court on charges brought by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) after landing on roof of the Texas shopping centre on July 7th last year.

The most serious of the charges was one of reckless endangerment after a security guard who tried to wave the helicopter away had his hand slightly injured by the effect the downdraft had on a large door he tried to shelter behind. A civil action on this is still pending.

O'Brien also faced charges of breaches of rules about altitude and landing procedures and other technical matters.

O'Brien, who is single, unemployed and supported by his grandmother, claimed he had permission to land on the building. He claimed heliport landings were statistically so safe that each one only had an accident every 344 years.

"From the time of Da Vinci?" asked the judge.

However, Capt John Steele, for the IAA, told the court the landing site was not a proper heliport but a multi-storey car park.

O'Brien accused the IAA of "making rules that are unworkable".

The judge said he was satisfied the defendant manoeuvred the helicopter with blatant disregard, either through ignorance or lack of comprehension of fundamental rules of the game.

Suggesting that the alternative would be six months in Mountjoy, the judge put O'Brien on a bail bond for one year, the main condition of which is that he will not fly during that period.