Pilot lands in court over false claim

Keith Chamberlain leaves court after escaping conviction.
Keith Chamberlain leaves court after escaping conviction.

A PILOT who impersonated an aviation inspector on a Qantas flight from Singapore to Australia and threatened he could ''ground this aircraft'' has avoided a criminal record.

Keith Albert Chamberlain, 59, yesterday admitted in a Melbourne court that he told cabin crew they had breached Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules.

Chamberlain had ''flashed'' an identification card at a flight attendant and said he worked for ''civil aviation'' after they clashed over his overhead luggage.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court heard he was booked on the flight from Changi airport on August 1, 2009, under the name ''Captain Chamberlain''.

In a summary released to The Age by magistrate Simon Garnett, the attendant, Maria Karlos, had helped a passenger put bags in the overhead compartments before takeoff.

When she approached the compartment that held Chamberlain's carry-on luggage and asked another passenger to help move bags to make way for more, he stood up and said: ''Do not touch my bags.''

When Ms Karlos said they needed the space for more bags, Chamberlain said: ''You do not touch my bags. You have broken a laptop before and you are not going to break another one.''

When Ms Karlos told him he had ''paid for the seat, not the locker'', Chamberlain flashed the card at her and said: ''You know what this is? I work for civil aviation.'' He made other comments about the weight of carry-on luggage before he remarked: ''And I would be careful if I were you, because I could ground this aircraft.''

Ms Karlos reported the altercation to her supervisor, Matthew Buys, who asked Chamberlain if he was on business or leisure. ''Leisure, but I will be writing a report into CASA, you have breached a number of CASA regulations, including bags weighing more than seven kilos,'' he replied.

He also told Mr Buys he had observed a number of other ''breaches'' by the cabin crew and continued to look around the cabin and take notes throughout the flight.

Chamberlain later accepted an apology from Ms Karlos for the altercation, but stated the aircraft was still flying illegally.

The charge against Chamberlain was heard under the court's diversion system, which allows some offenders, who admit the facts, to avoid a criminal record and be discharged without a formal finding of guilt.

Mr Garnett granted Chamberlain a diversion with conditions he apologise to Ms Karlos in writing, write a letter of gratitude to the investigator for supporting diversion and donate $200 to the Salvation Army and pay costs of $250.

This story Pilot lands in court over false claim first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.