A managing director of a company who flew a helicopter from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh, Perak to purchase 36 packs of nasi ganja was charged in the Magistrate's Court in Ipoh yesterday, 9 May
According to Bernama, the suspect has been identified as Datuk Mohamed Raffe K Chekku.
It is reported that he is the managing director of the KL-Kuala Selangor Expressway (LATAR).
The 53-year-old was charged with violating the Rules of the Air as specified by the Director-General of Civil Aviation in Chapter 3 of the 'Civil Aviation Directive 2 - Rules of the Air' by not complying with the submitted 'Flight Plan'.
He was alleged to have landed the Bell 505 aircraft with registration number 9M-RCI at Padang Ipoh, instead of the aerodrome specified in the 'Flight Plan'.
The offence was allegedly committed between 9.50am and 10am on 23 July 2021.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is framed under Regulation 77(2) of the Civil Aviation Regulations 2016.
Mohamed Raffe may face up to three years in jail and a RM50,000 fine upon conviction
He was granted bail of RM5,000 with one surety and the court has set 29 June for mention.
The prosecution was conducted by deputy public prosecutor Jean Sharmila Jesudason, while Mohamed Raffe was represented by lawyer Datuk Dr Baljit Singh Sidhu.
After the police announced that Mohamed Raffe would be charged, many experienced aviators were shocked by the development
Speaking to Free Malaysia Today, they said it is a common practice for helicopter pilots to change landing locations along their flight routes as long as they have clearance from air traffic control (ATC).
Mohamed Raffe had permission to land at the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, but he landed some 6km away at Padang Ipoh, for which he did not have permission.
According to Perak police chief Mior Faridalathrash Wahid, the helicopter pilot was granted a police permit in Selangor to travel to Ipoh on a "maintenance round".
A pilot told Free Malaysia Today that the case indicting Mohamed Raffe sets a bad precedent as it will curtail the flexibility of flying helicopters.
"As long as pilots inform the ATC and get clearance, they don't even have to give reasons for their landing. So, we are shocked that the Attorney-General's Chambers has decided to charge the Bell 505 helicopter pilot involved in the incident, especially when he had the ATC clearance," he explained.
One senior pilot with 35 years of experience, including 20 years in the airforce, also said that the case should not be a problem to begin with as he had made dozens of landings on fields and other open areas while on routine or maintenance flights.
Another pilot claimed the authorities might be acting under duress because the case caught national attention at the time.
"It is clear that the flight had official permission to fly across state borders. So, they may have resorted to this action to please the public. The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia should know better, as the pilot did nothing illegal," he said.
"His actions did not result in the government losing any revenue nor did he cause any public nuisance, and it was never a threat to security. It may have been morally wrong under the circumstances, but this does not constitute a crime."