Air Whitsunday pilot Daniel Bolton will fly again after being banned due to a head injury sustained after being punched on a night out.
A commercial pilot whose skull was fractured when he was punched in the head during a night out will be allowed to fulfil his dream of flying after a decision by air-safety authorities was quashed.
Daniel Bolton, a 23-year-old pilot for Air Whitsunday at Airlie Beach in Queensland, was punched in the right side of his head while he was out with friends in the early hours of March 10 last year.
Four months after he was assaulted, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority cancelled two of his medical certificates because it believed there was an unacceptable risk to air safety if he continued to fly.
Without the certificates, it meant he was unable to fly the airline's seaplanes to spots on the Great Barrier Reef. Mr Bolton gained his commercial flying licence when he was just 19.
But the Administrative Appeals Tribunal found that there was no evidence that Mr Bolton was suffering from any adverse effects from the head injury.
The tribunal said evidence from CASA had fallen short of pointing to the existence of either a ''condition'' or an ''effect of a head injury'', and ruled that Mr Bolton's medical certificates not be cancelled.
The decision comes as debate rages in NSW over whether the state government should change licensing laws or stiffen penalties following a string of alcohol-related assaults on Sydney's streets.
Mr Bolton's case again highlights the high price victims of such assaults pay.
Immediately after the assault, he suffered a headache and noticed what appeared to be an indentation in his skull. He was later taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull facture.
Several days later, he had surgery to elevate the depressed fracture, which was performed without complications. He has not had any episodes of vertigo or any symptoms to suggest any type of epileptic event since the surgery.
The aviation watchdog had been concerned that the skull fracture, together with an associated haemorrhage, put Mr Bolton at risk of post-traumatic seizures and neurocognitive deficits.
Mr Bolton maintained that the skull fracture was caused by the punch, and that his head did not hit the ground.
A neurologist engaged by CASA referred to a hospital note which suggested Mr Bolton was unsure whether he had been punched in the right side of his head or whether he had been punched and then fallen onto his right side.
But the tribunal said what mattered in the case was the severity of the fracture – not how it was caused.
Mr Bolton is still waiting for CASA to reinstate one of his medical certificates so that he can return to flying.