Drone pilot pleads guilty to endangering BBMF Hurricane display

BBMF Hurricane
BBMF Hurricane. Photo: RAF/John Dibbs

A drone pilot who nearly caused a serious accident at a memorial flight in Buxton, Derbyshire has pleaded guilty to endangering an aircraft.

The incident happened at the Buxton Carnival in July 2022, during a fly-past by the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Hurricane.

At the time, the fly-past had been protected by a temporary airspace restriction which banned all other flying in the area, including drones.

Images captured on the day showed the drone flying dangerously close to the wing of the Hurricane, which was being watched by an estimated 20,000 people.

“Officers worked to identify the drone operator,” said a statement from Derbyshire Police.

“A 49-year-old man from Buxton, and his drone was seized as part of their investigation. Analysis showed it was flying over Buxton at the time of the fly-past.”

Mark Bagguley, of Chatsworth Road, Fairfield, was arrested and subsequently charged with endangering an aircraft and operating an aircraft out of the visual line of sight.

He pleaded guilty to both charges before magistrates at Chesterfield Justice Centre on Monday 9 January and is set to appear again in February for sentencing.

Following the case, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and police are reminding drone operators of the need to fly safely and legally.

Pc Matt Moore, Flight Safety Manager for the Derbyshire Constabulary drone team said, “The way the pilot flew his drone was unsafe, illegal and totally unacceptable. “

“Anyone using a drone must follow the rules to make sure they fly safely. As a police drone unit, we know the benefits drones can bring to society but people using a drone in this way not only threaten the safety of aircraft and the public they also damage the future use of drones.

“This is for the safety of not only yourself but others around.”

Drone legislation includes operator registration, pilot competency and maintaining separation distances from members of the public, built up areas and manned aviation.

Jonathan Nicholson, Assistant Director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said, “Flying a drone and endangering an aircraft in this way is totally unacceptable. Drone users have an obligation to understand and follow the rules. While flying a drone can be great fun, it also comes with significant responsibilities. People need to check airspace before they fly their drone and only fly where it is safe and legal to do so.

“Airspace restrictions, like the one in place for this case, apply to even the smallest drones, so it’s really important that people check before they fly. When you use a drone you’re sharing the airspace with many other types of aviation, so it’s vital that drone users consider the safety of everyone when flying.”

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