A ‘Walter Mitty’ pilot who illegally flew aeroplanes for six years without a licence has been spared jail.
Wesley Tierney, 25, lied about being a qualified pilot and spent his spare time flying his friends – including two children – around in light aircraft.
A court heard that Tierney had learned how to operate planes by becoming a qualified glider and gliding instructor.
But while he may have understood how to fly, he was not legally qualified to do so.
The court heard how Tierney forged the right qualifications to get a job as an Airfield Operations Officer at North Weald Airfield, Essex, in 2010.
As well as taking to the skies himself, he also claimed to be a flying instructor and signed off on several learner pilots’ qualifications. – meaning they were also temporarily taking off illegally.
But the court heard he was caught out after his colleagues grew suspicious of his qualifications – only to find out he didn’t have any when they made the relevant checks.
Tierney, from Letchworth, Hertfordshire, then revealed that he had been unable to afford to obtain a pilot’s licence legally.
Prosecutor Alison Slater, representing the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), told Cambridge Crown Court: “This is less about competency and more about trust. There was no harm incurred but there was sufficient risk of harm.”
Tierney, who pleaded guilty to three counts of acting as flight crew without holding an appropriate licence and two of forgery of documents with attempt to deceive, represented himself in court.
He said: “The only relief for me was when I found out I didn’t have to continue this lie. It’s a lie I told when I was very young.
“I’ve realised a good job isn’t just one where you can brag about to your friends in the bar.”
The 25-year-old was handed an eight-month jail sentence, suspended for 14 months and was also ordered to carry out 140 hours of unpaid work and to pay £750 in costs.
Recorder Sandip Kainth said: “Had you not pleaded guilty and cooperated I would not have thought twice about sending you to prison.
“You put lives at risk. There was no insurance and no come back for those who flew with you.
“I can’t imagine if there were to have been accident the repercussion for the families.”
(Top picture: Getty)