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BAE nuclear site's airspace violated by ... a model plane!
A MODEL plane enthusiast whose remote control aircraft flew in restricted airspace has been heavily fined.
Robert Knowles, of King Street, Dalton, was flying a plane from the slag bank off Park Road, Barrow, on August 25 last year.
On the seventh flight the 1.86kg plane flew in the high security airspace of submarine giants BAE Systems, narrowly avoiding Jubilee Bridge, before crash landing in the Walney Channel.
The plane was later found washed up by Mark White, an employee of BAE Systems.
Knowles, 46, records flights with a camera mounted on the plane and uploads them to video-sharing website YouTube.
Prosecutors acting on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said he was identified as the operator of the plane when the footage showed his car registration plate.
Knowles originally denied one charge of contravening rules of air regulation by flying a small unmanned aircraft within 50 metres of Jubilee Bridge and one charge of flying over a nuclear installation below a height of 2,000ft.
Furness Magistrates Court heard BAE Systems had a ‘circle of restricted airspace’ of 0.5 nautical miles up to 2,500ft.
He was due to attend for a trial at the court on Tuesday but left the building 30 minutes before it began. His lawyer therefore withdrew from the case and Knowles was found guilty in his absence.
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Knowles, who claimed he was not in control of the plane after losing sight of it, was fined £400 for each offence, made to pay £3,500 court costs and a £40 victim surcharge.
Alison Slater, prosecuting for the CAA, said: “The plane was taken to Greater Manchester Police who downloaded the film from the onboard camera.
“Robert Webb, investigating officer for the CAA, informed Knowles of the incident who replied in an email that he had flown six times that day without any problems.
“He said on the seventh launch he had lost sight around 100 yards out. He had his laptop set up and followed it on screen until he lost the beacon so gathered it had landed in water.”
District Judge Gerald Chalk said: “The evidence is relatively clear cut in that a small aircaft was recovered by Mr White and on that aircraft was a small camera and the film has been shown to me.
“I am satisfied he was both the operator and person in charge.”