A Pacific Blue plane flying from Queenstown to Sydney only just cleared the Southern Alps upon take-off, according to a court in New Zealand.
The 54-year-old Kiwi pilot was accused by the Civil Aviation Authority of operating a plane in a careless manner after the take-off in June 2010, according to news.com.au.
The flight was reportedly meant to leave at 4.30pm, but didn't take off until 5.25pm, 20 minutes before twilight.
Flights are not meant to take off from Queenstown Airport less than half an hour before twilight.
Former chief pilot for Air New Zealand Colin Glasgow said the aircraft did not reach the minimum altitude required to ensure the plane did not hit the nearby Southern Alps if an engine failed.
According to news.com.au, he said: "He only just managed to make 9000 feet with both engines.
"As he was leaving when he did he would not be able to land the aircraft before light faded completely."
Mr Glasgow said a "bank angle" warning would have gone off in the cockpit, something, he explained, that most pilots wouldn't see apart from in a simulator.
The pilot's defence said he if he did breach requirements, his actions "fell short of carelessness".
Meanwhile, passengers on an Air France flight travelling from Paris to Bogota have spoken of their terror after the plane plummeted towards the Atlantic Ocean and a burning smell filled the cabin.
The AF422 flight from Paris to the Colombian capital made an emergency landing on the island of Terceira in the Azores, and many people were "crying and screaming", according to the BBC.
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