Written on January 30, 2012.
The Saskatchewan Provincial Court has sentenced a pilot to a term of 9 months imprisonment following a tragic accident on May 10, 2010. The pilot, Parker Butterfield, pled guilty to dangerous operation of an aircraft causing death, contrary to section 249(4) of the Criminal Code. Butterfield and the victim, William Bleach, were both commercial pilots employed by North-Wright Airways. Butterfield was attempting to perform a flight manoeuvre known as a “low and over” for Bleach, an avid photographer. This manoeuvre required Butterfield to fly low to the ground and in close proximity to Bleach, who would be standing below the aircraft while photographing or videotaping as it flew above him. While attempting to fly over Bleach, a gust of wind blew the small plane, a Cessna 207, off course causing the wing of the plane to fatally strike Bleach in the head.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Kalmakoff found that Butterfield significantly departed from the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent pilot. He stated that meeting the standard would involve appreciating significant risks, including the wind conditions at the time, which were ignored by Butterfield and ultimately lead to the tragic accident. Judge Kalmakoff found it to be an aggravating factor that Butterfield was fully aware of the risks involved prior to attempting the stunt. He also found the accused’s lack of a criminal record, his genuine remorse and his cooperation with the police to be mitigating factors.
On January 9, 2012, Butterfield was sentenced to a nine month term of imprisonment and is also prohibited from operating an aircraft, anywhere in Canada, for two years. He will be serving his term in a Provincial Correctional Centre in Saskatchewan.