THE Mount Isa charter pilot alleged to have put glass beads in his rivals’ planes is to be granted bail from the Mount Isa Magistrates Court.
However, Josh Hoch will likely be in the Mount Isa Police Station watch house on Australia Day. Part of his conditions set by Magistrate Stephen Guttridge is that Mr Hoch supply $50,000 surety before release.
The Mount Isa Court House had not received the surety or approved the paperwork by its closing time of 4.30pm, Wednesday. The court opens again at 8.30am on Friday. Thursday is the Australia Day public holiday.
Mr Hoch is to appear again before the Mount Isa Magistrates Court on February 22. He is charged with 342 offences.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Vaughan Cooper opposed bail and said five of the charges had a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
“He is at risk of flight, quite literally,” Sergeant Cooper said.
“His capacity not just to leave Queensland, but Australia.”
Sergeant Cooper said one of the charges related to a Piper Chieftain plane that lost power flying from the Northern Territory to Mount Isa. There were three people on board. Sergeant Cooper alleged that an inspection of the plane revealed glass beads in the oil filter.
Sergeant Cooper alleged also that oil had been removed from a Cessna plane kept at the Mount Isa Airport. This was discovered during a daily inspection on August 18, 2016.
On September, 2016, a Piper Chieftain about to fly from Mount Isa to Burketown experienced loss of oil pressure, the court heard. The flight was aborted. An oil sample allegedly showed glass beads, metals and dirt mixed in with it, Sergeant Cooper said.
On October 6 to 7 a Cessna belonging to the Northern Territory Air Services, travelling between Alice Springs and Mount Isa, experienced low pressure. Glass beads were allegedly found in the engines, Sergeant Cooper said.
On October 18 a pilot on another plane noticed a drop in pressure. The plane arrived in Mount Isa safely. It is alleged that an inspection found paste in the oil system.
Sergeant Cooper said other offences included fraud. Mr Hoch is alleged to have supplied two fraudulent insurance claims.
Mr Hoch did not have proper accreditation of an aircraft, the prosecutor alleges.
The court heard that Mr Hoch has flown Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter and Katters Australian Party State MPs Rob Katter and Shane Knuth through his charter service. The Federal MP has paid $275,000 in total to Mr Hoch for his charter services.
The prosecutor alleges further that the defendant has flown an aircraft to hide it from police.
Mr Hoch’s solicitor Michael Spearman, Resolute Legal’s principal lawyer, said the charges were “quite circumstantial” and said many of the charges “doubled-up”.
Mr Spearman said that Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has known of Mr Hoch’s flights since 2013. They could have grounded him immediately if they had concerns with the pilot and audited the company, he said.
“Despite knowing of the allegations for months they could have grounded him.”
Mr Hoch has already suffered a “trial by jury” and it has affected his business. He also has two young children and a long-term partner.
“There are significant stresses in the family right at this point,” Mr Spearman said.
Other bail conditions is that Mr Hoch not apply for a passport. If he has one he must surrender it.
Mr Hoch cannot pilot a plane or enter an airport. He must also report to the Mount Isa Police Station on specific days twice a week. He also must not contact witnesses.