back to article Whirlybird-driving infosec boss fined after ranty Blackpool Airport air traffic control antics

The managing director of a Manchester-based infosec firm has been fined for flying his helicopter into an air traffic control zone without permission – having first launched a rant at tower controllers. Joel Tobias, a helicopter owner and pilot who was described by the Manchester Evening News as a “wealthy businessman”, was …

  1. Anonymous South African Coward

    Entitled snowflake?

    There's always the cheaper route - take a chauffeured limo or drive yourself, but don't moan at ATC, their job's already stressful enough as it is.

    1. Mark 85

      But he's obviously too important to wait around dealing with ground traffic.

      Maybe they should suspend his license for say... a year. But then he'll get all upset because he share the road with the "lower classes".

      1. jgarbo

        Tobias might be big on the ground, but up there we're all equal.You wait your turn or someone gets killed.

  2. Flywheel

    What kind of climate vandal..

    "flies his family between Lytham St Annes and Blackpool"

    I mean, there are trains, even buses! Perhaps he had something to prove?

    1. Lazlo Woodbine

      Re: What kind of climate vandal..

      You can walk from Lytham to Blackpool.

      According to other reports I've read he was flying from Manchester to Lytham but for reasons not explained anywhere decided he wished to land at Blackpool

      1. Santa from Exeter

        Re: What kind of climate vandal..

        Blackpool Airport is actually *in* Lytham!

        1. Keith Oborn

          Re: What kind of climate vandal..

          Administratively it may be. Physically it is not. It is on the southern edge of the town of Blackpool, the northern edge of St. Annes. I grew up in the latter.

          Mind you, I agree about the bus: I bet the no 11 would have got him there quicker. And for less than 550 an hour.

          1. GrahamRJ

            Re: What kind of climate vandal..

            Physically it really is. I grew up in Ansdell, backing onto the Moss. The old Moss Road from the back of Ansdell to the M55, which I believe is now closed, goes along the perimeter of the airport. The airport radar station lived down there, and was usually accessed by staff from the Moss Road rather than through the airport. When I was a kid, that put about a mile between the edge of Lytham (Albany Road) and the airport, but of course there's a new housing development there now so the distance is down to more like half a mile.

            The *entrance* to the airport of course is definitely in Blackpool though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What kind of climate vandal..

      Out of tourist season, Blackpool council goes out of its way to make it as hard as possible to drive north/south within the town by putting roadworks on every north/south route.

      That stretch of road is Wyre council, I don't know if they're as bad.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What kind of climate vandal..

      Not to defend the plonker, but I think that's just unfortunate wording, as he later said he was routing around B'pool then, so I guess he was en route to somewhere else, entering B'pool from direction of LStA.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What kind of climate vandal..


      Isn't Squires Gate ("Blackpool International Airport") basically adjacent to the boundary between Blackpool and Lytham?

      Maybe two miles, max 5 (by car) between Squires Gate and Chez Tobias ? Even less by air?

      So, dig a bit further and this emerges (from a well known reputable source of in depth analysis - maybe)

      "The 1pm incident occurred last July when Tobias was flying his family from the City of Manchester Airport for a day out at Lytham St Annes in his EC120 Colibri chopper G-HVRZ."

      courtesy of (adblock strongly recommended)

      Unusually worth a read, as are the comments.

      See also

      and maybe elsewhere.

  3. Aladdin Sane

    What a plonker.

  4. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    What a Tightwad

    He went all ranty about £10/minute flight costs yet had no problem acquiring the thing in the first place? or is it on the company books.

    As his time is so valuable to him, make him recertify from scratch.

  5. Valeyard

    10 minutes?

    if 10 minutes of £550p/h is causing you concern I don't think a helicopter is for you

    "Good. Stay out of my ATZ. You need to check your radio. By all means complain"

    Tolley sounds like she handled the situation beautifully, he needed to be brought down a peg or two

    1. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: 10 minutes?

      Indeed, a giant beer for her. But not whilst on duty plz

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 10 minutes?

        Sounds like she has the intelligence required to figure out an appropriate time for a beer.

      2. DontFeedTheTrolls

        Re: 10 minutes?

        For those that don't know, Pilots and Front Line ATC are not allowed to work with a Blood Alcohol level above 50% of the driving limit.

        And thanks to Scotland reducing it from 80 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood, that's 25 Milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood nationally. You're welcome.

  6. Rich 11

    Arrogant dickhead

    That is all.

    1. jgarbo

      Re: Arrogant dickhead

      Dangerous dickhead. That kind of fool gets people killed.

    2. riverrock83

      Re: Arrogant dickhead

      if you were held waiting for 10 minutes in a shop, while the cashier chatted to the person at the front of the line, would you be a bit miffed?

      1. Grooke

        Re: Arrogant dickhead

        If the cashier was directing multi-ton metal flying machines to avoid them crashing into each other, no.

      2. GrahamRJ

        Re: Arrogant dickhead

        If the cashier was checking the person at the front of the line didn't crash onto houses in a fiery plume of aviation fuel, I'd be cool with that, thanks.

      3. Matthew 3

        Re: Arrogant dickhead

        ATCs don't have time to just have a nice chat. What we're dealing with here is an entitled prick who has barged to the front of the queue in a busy shop because they think they're more important than everyone else.

  7. Joe W Silver badge

    What a ...

    ... donkey.

    It matters f'all how much your toy costs to fly, and if you cannot afford it you should not fly it. There's rules how to enter the control zone (and how to treat other human beings ffs!) surrounding airports (well, all of those zones of controlled airspace depending on whether you fly VFR or IFR). First point: you need clearance to enter the zone. Maybe they should also suspend his driver's license, sounds like somebody prone to road rage if you are in a "lesser" car, i.e. any car that's cheaper than his helicopter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a ...

      Irrelevant sidenote of the day: speeding tickets can be reason not to issue a gun carry permit in Germany, with much the same reasoning.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: What a ...

      The sole exception to the above is the "due to $(situation_beyond_control_or_reasonable_prediction) I'm running on fumes" call - which would of course have been answered rather differently anyway.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: What a ...

        >> I'm running on fumes" call

        Handled very differently - including an investigation into WHY it was allowed to get to that point: IE: WHY the PIC didn't make a technical stop a long time before it got anywhere near that stage instead of pressing on regardless

  8. wyatt
    Thumb Down

    What a knob.

  9. TheRealRoland

    "Excuse me! Excuse me! I couldn't help but notice, i'm considerably richer than you!"

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We've all been there.

    We've all been there! You know how it is, you take a family trip in your private jet/helicopter. You feel tired after and ATC just feel so slow while you wait.

    Sadly these things are required however, and it's no excuse to be abusive to the controller.

    Personally, I'm in the hire a private pilot bandcamp. Over xmas we headed over to France on my private jet, took a while to land trying to get clearance, luckily I wasn't flying this time!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We've all been there.

      I suspect the downvoters are not aware of the term "sarcasm":)

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: We've all been there.

      Hire a pilot? Peasant. We keep several on permanent staff.

  11. Evil Harry

    What a plank.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    fined £1,600 plus £870 in legal costs


    1. Colin Miller

      Re: fined £1,600 plus £870 in legal costs

      That's pocket change if you can afford a £550/hr helibird

      1. hoofie

        Re: fined £1,600 plus £870 in legal costs

        The costs involved be small potatoes to him BUT he is now suspended, cannot fly and will have fun and games getting his licence back. The CAA are not known for their largesse.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: fined £1,600 plus £870 in legal costs


      Excuse me sir. <grabs PA mic> "Attention please! I have a gentleman here who doesn't know who he is. Could someone please come to the desk and collect him?"

    3. 's water music

      Re: fined £1,600 plus £870 in legal costs


      Ronnie Pickering?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    >flying his family between Lytham St Annes and Blackpool

    That's... five miles? Good lord what a tit.

  14. jeffty

    Flying private is costly, listening to/obeying ATC is mandatory...

    Get used to it. If you don't like the costs, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives. LSA and Blackpool are less than ten miles apart ffs. Why you need to fly such a short distance is beyond me.

    If this clown is that "entitled" he shouldn't be flying or driving. Last thing the airways or roads need is another person with this bloke's attitude.

    Shame there isn't an idiot tax (other than a fine) that can't be applied to his flights on a regular basis.

  15. Sgt_Oddball

    Having been in a private whirly bird..

    Normally when anywhere near air traffic controlled airspace the first thing you do is confirm where you're headed, how high and where you are now.

    If they tell you to move you move. If they tell you to stay, you stay. It's irritating but is there to hopefully prevent crap like having a glider and towplane fly at you*. With respect to landing, if the airspace is busy, you F***ING wait unless you want air traffic control rightfully telling you off on an open channel and then having to warn other pilots remotely near you to watch out.

    That said they be a pain about confirming the difference between North East and North-North East (we flew between both so it was neither here nor there)....

    * or rather didn't because the towplane didn't bother to check if he could take off from the hillside he was sat on, not expecting any bugger to fly a helicopter to look at the Kilburn White horse from the air but I digress...

    1. Is It Me

      Re: Having been in a private whirly bird..

      "Kilburn White horse", had to search that, as the the only Kilburn I know is in North West London and I wasn't aware of any horses there

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Just a fine?

    The fine just about covers his rudeness. The dangerous way he behaved surely should have merited grounding for a couple of months at least?

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: Just a fine?

      "His licence was suspended after the incident and the CAA will decide whether or not to return it." he's grounded for now *nods*

    2. Mark 110

      Re: Just a fine?

      I think it said his liceense is suspended.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just a fine?

      Ah. I'll just leave my comment there as a reminder to myself that I really should read articles more thoroughly.

  17. Cynic_999

    Contrary view

    While it sounds like he was indeed very much in the wrong, in mitigation I will point out that in many cases when you have had a late handover and so are fast approaching an ATZ (air traffic control zone) for which you need permission to enter, and you cannot get through to ATC, it can be a pretty stressful situation in congested airspace. If you don't get the required permission in time you will need to start executing 360 degree turns in order to remain outside the boundary, which other pilots in the vicinity (and indeed any radar controller managing IFR flights in the same area) will not be expecting, so you have to keep a really good lookout and hope that you spot any conflicts.

    Stress can exhibit itself in several ways - and if it was true that the controller was having semi-social chats with other pilots she knew while telling this pilot to "stand by", then I can see how that would be frustrating and induce anger in a person who is feeling stressed and (dare I say it?) perhaps in a situation that was a bit over his head and so a little frightened as well - while trying not to show it to his passengers.

    It doesn't excuse his rudeness, but it might go some way to understanding why it happened.

    1. PerspexAvenger

      Re: Contrary view

      He's in a helicopter. He can sit and fucking wait.

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: Contrary view

        Helicopters use more fuel when hovering as opposed to flying forwards

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: Contrary view


        2. DontFeedTheTrolls

          Re: Contrary view

          OP said he would need to perform 360 degree loops. That's not hovering but flying forward albeit in a constant turn.

        3. Cynic_999

          Re: Contrary view

          Many helicopters don't have enough power to maintain a high hover, especially when carrying a full load. When out of ground-effect they must maintain forward airspeed to provide additional (translational) lift. Albeit slower than most fixed-wing aircraft have to maintain.

          A high hover is also not easy to maintain safely even if sufficient power is available, because if the pilot inadvertently starts to descend (difficult to notice when high), the blades will encounter their own vortex and the pilot will very rapidly lose control (vortex ring state or "settling with power" - sort of the rotary aircraft version of stalling).

    2. An ominous cow heard

      Re: Contrary view

      "a person who is feeling stressed and (dare I say it?) perhaps in a situation that was a bit over his head and so a little frightened as well - while trying not to show it to his passengers."

      That could well apply in some cases. Does it seem likely to apply to this one? How would we know? Well...

      Readers may wish to do a bit of further research, e.g. have a read of the related Daily Mail article from 10 Jan (online) and look not just at the article text but at the pictures of the guilty party. A picture speaks a thousand words? See where it leads you.

      Sorry, no link, in case it stops these words getting posted. You'll work it out.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: Contrary view

        "a bit of further research, e.g. have a read of the related Daily Mail article"


      2. aaaashy

        Re: Contrary view

        DailyMail appears to have no search window, have wasted 10 minutes trying to find out how to check your story, so why no link? does El Reg block messages containing links? <>

        we'll see .....

        1. An ominous cow heard

          @aaashy: Why no link?

          A post submitted earlier did contain a link to the mailonline article and has finally arrived here now but had previously sat awaiting clearance for a lot more than ten minutes, during which time I had already posted a briefer, link-free, version in the expectation that folk might use their favourite search engine to find the actual article. Sorry about the delay, ambiguity, and wasted time.

    3. RPF

      Re: Contrary view

      There was almost certainly no hand-over to wait for. Blackpool ATZ is surrounded by uncontrolled airspace.

    4. pakman

      Re: Contrary view

      'if it was true that the controller was having semi-social chats with other pilots she knew while telling this pilot to "stand by"'

      According to the linked Manchester Evening News article, she "had been helping guide a pilot who was lost when Tobias contacted her on the same radio frequency."


    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Contrary view

      >> IF it was true that the controller was having semi-social chats with other pilots she knew while telling this pilot to "stand by"

      Having sat both in ATC halls and in towers observing - if a controller is doing that, then they're shuffling stuff or waiting for a computer and can't actually DO anything - and if he was being pushy or a prick, then I can understand her not saying that the computers are being sluggish.

      Of course pilots like this guy _DON'T_ spend time in controller spaces, so they don't know what goes on at the other end of the radio. It's a worthwhile experience for anyone training so they have a feeling for what's going on when things get busy.

  18. Mr Humbug

    Should have listened to Cabin Pressure

    "Request priority landing"

    <strikes match />

    "I think I smell smoke in the cockpit"

    - D Richardson

  19. OssianScotland


    Obviously a Copter User (Non Technical)

  20. Alistair Silver badge

    Over here:

    Pull that on an ATC over here and you don't fly again. Entering a zone without either permission or an ACKed mayday any you loose your flight license.

    1. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: Over here:

      "His licence was suspended after the incident and the CAA will decide whether or not to return it." they have pulled his license.

      I hope we'll get an update when the CAA decide if he gets it back or not.

    2. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Over here:

      "Entering a zone without either permission or an ACKed mayday any you loose your flight license."

      Possible exception for total/partial radio failure as part of said mayday - Though I'm not sure what you would expect to do at that point... Phone in?

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: Over here:


        ... not sure what you would expect to do at that point... Phone in?


        That is indeed usually a viable option these days. Otherwise you continue to follow your flight plan (if filed), join the circuit at the airport keeping a good look-out and wait for red or green light signals from the tower, rocking your wings to acknowledge that you have seen them.

        You can also alert radar to your plight beforehand by flying a right-hand triangular pattern to signify transmitter failure, and a left-hand triangle to signify total radio failure.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Over here:


          Bit of an issue if you have multiple failures... but at least there is some process.


  21. chivo243 Silver badge

    In the wild?!

    Well, you know what we have here? This is what is called an "Ultra privileged over-educated shit head" We don't usually see them in the wild... Usually they are smart enough to keep their tantrums private, although it seems not so much any more. Nuts before take off anyone?

  22. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    So you're a "wealthy businessman", are you ?

    Well in a helicopter you're just a pilot. Plus you're not even a billionaire, so there. In your offices you're used to being the Top Man, we understand, but at the airport you're just a number.

    Buy the airport and come back to us then, dickwad. If you have to cite the operating costs of your vehicle as a reason to treat you special, then you don't deserve the vehicle in the first place.

    Do you ever hear Ferrari owners complain about maintenance costs ?

    Small timer.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I believe that helicopters shouldn't be able to "self clear" anyway

    Even if he did properly announce his position, altitude, air speed, heading, etc like a pilot entering airspace without prior clearance should, he still should have been censured for doing so. A helicopter can hover, FFS, not all of us have the option of just not moving. The only way he could be justified would be if he was running low on fuel, dealing with a failing system, engaging in life-saving operations, the helicopter is rated only for VFR and weather is coming in, etc.

    My role at work involves flying the company jet* in and out of the NYC area, and pretty much every flight of ours ends up having to adjust for some whirly-wanker thinking they own the skies. I wonder what it will take for them to finally realize that me getting out of their way is far more dangerous for me than for them to get out of my way. For me, my only options are to proceed forward, hoping the helicopter listens to ATC and stay out of my approach / departure path, or to abort the landing, and return to a traffic pattern in some of the busiest skies in the world. For them, its a gentle pulling back of the collective and just not moving for a little while, the only risk they face is their passengers getting all blustery (As helicopter passenger in NYC are wont to do).

    *I am part of a 8-person Red Team, and since we're all traveling at the same time to the same place, it works out cheaper and easier for us to travel as a unit in a light jet. Plus we've audited the security of some airlines and aircraft manufacturers, and we aren't exactly thrilled at the prospect of climbing on to one of their planes, whereas our aircraft, we've went through and audited the hell out of its electronics (We acquired a retired version of our aircraft, identical in every way except for the serial numbers, and then attacked it with everything we had, working with the manufacturer to fix the bugs we found).

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: I believe that helicopters shouldn't be able to "self clear" anyway

      Never heard of self clearance, but then I only had a glider license (which has now expired, too busy with other stuff, sadly). We were taught to stay tf out of anything class C and D (though some special local rules allowed limited use of certain parts of C surrounding the local airport, but only on request and clearance).

      1. Cynic_999

        Re: I believe that helicopters shouldn't be able to "self clear" anyway

        There is no such thing as self-clearance regarding controlled airspace in the UK. You can clear yourself to take off or land at an *uncontrolled*, private runway (there's nobody to clear you anyway!). No clearance is required for any aircraft to enter class "G" airspace.

    2. Cynic_999

      Re: I believe that helicopters shouldn't be able to "self clear" anyway


      A helicopter can hover, FFS


      Looks like you aren't a pilot and are repeating some inaccurate and predjudiced myths about rotary operations.

      As I mentioned previously, in fact most GA helicopters have insufficient power to hover out of ground-effect unless lightly loaded, and entering a high-hover is in any case not recommended because of the risk of losing control due to vortex-ring effect (settling with power). A high hover also eats fuel like crazy. You can however easily & safely slow to about 20 kts indicated airspeed, which on many days will give you close to zero ground speed if you face into wind at altitude.

      Incidentally, the control used to slow down a helicopter is the cyclic ("stick"), not the collective ("handle"). Helicopters in the UK must follow the same regulations and get the same ATC clearances as fixed-wing, except that there are a few specifically designated routes that rotary aircraft are permitted to fly but fixed-wing may not - e.g. the London low-level helicopter corridor. Also the regulation that demands that pilots always maintain a position where it would be possible to land in a clear area in the event of an engine failure allows more latitude to helicopters, which can auto-rotate into in a much smaller space than a fixed-wing needs to carry out a glide landing.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    flight time cost

    A quick look at flight traffic in and around blackpool shows some much more expensive aircraft operating in the area. Maybe this Dbag just needs to upgrade to a flashier ride?

    1. OssianScotland

      Re: flight time cost

      Or he could try having a head-to-head with something out of Wharton, just around the corner

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: flight time cost

        I think you mean Warton? (Alleged) Home of the... um, do meSsyBaEst actually build aircraft any more?

        (I joined at Weybridge while it was still British Waste O' Space and was most perturbed to discover that our esteemed northern colleagues had somehow managed to be "Home Of" practically every aircraft in the RAF's inventory since 1st April 1918... or at least, that is what they claimed!)

        1. OssianScotland

          Re: flight time cost

          You are quite right, Warton it is. I've done some contracting there and the certainly did work on Typhoons and Hawks a couple of years ago

  25. Martin-73 Silver badge


    That's what the estimated £91.67 (keep the change guv) the ten minute delay ALLEGEDLY cost him.

    If you're that rich you use a chopper to ferry your family around the north (I know both places mentioned are in the north, thanks to the KLF) ... stomach the cost, and be polite to overworked, overstressed controllers.

    And do not break protocol and/or laws because you're having a hissy fit.

    Costwise he got off light... the CAA returning (or not) the license will be the big smack here.

    What a prat

  26. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    One observation: He may not have the correct temperament to pilot aircraft. Endangering his entire family as well...

  27. DontFeedTheTrolls


    What's the depreciation per hour on a Eurocopter EC-120 that you're not permitted to fly?

  28. vogon00

    C-Suite mentality in the air

    "unhappy about the service being given"? WTF?

    He's obviously aware of his role outside of the aircraft, but he appears to have forgotten what his job description is when *inside* the aircraft.

    IFAIK (And I'm not a pilot) 'ATC' stands for 'Air Traffic Control' and it's their responsibility to manage the airspace they are responsible for. not his.

    This includes the timely delivery of 'service', with a focus on the safety of *all* airspace users, both passengers and crew,

    The 'C' in ATC is Control. They are the people with the 'big picture' of what's going on in their ATZ, and as such are the only ones who *can* control the overall situation. Mr. self-important heli pilot seems to have forgotten it's ATC's job to control him, not the other way around. Frustrating it may be to a C-Suite mentality (ego?), but that's the deal when you strap the aircraft on.

    As for the 550/Hour complaint, he should be familiar with the 'cost of doing business', and even I know the only thing that keeps a rotary-wing aircraft up in the air is money.....what did this idiot expect? Why choose to do something seriously expensive and then complain about the cost!

    Plus, if his journey was that time-ciritical he should have allowed some wiggle room in his flight schedule :-)

    Whilst writing this, I've been thinking of a suitable phrase to express my opinion of him. Sadly, the best I can come up with is 'Arrogant and ignorant twat!'

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