The Civil Aviation Department did not break its own rules when it allowed Cathay Pacific to fly a plane between Hong Kong and Melbourne with only two pilots, a Court of First Instance judge ruled yesterday. In a written ruling, Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung said the aviation regulator had the right to let Cathay run the nine-hour flight without a third pilot on February 27 last year. Nothing in international aviation rules barred such a move, he added, dismissing an application for judicial review filed by the Hong Kong Aircrew Officers Association. The pilots' union argued that the aviation regulator had jeopardised passenger safety and said it was worried the one-time event could become standard practice. One pilot rostered for the flight on February 27 last year fell ill, so two pilots made the flight instead of the three usually required. The department waived the requirement at Cathay's request. The trip lasted eight hours and 36 minutes. The captain and the first officer had rested for three and six days, respectively. Under department policy, if two pilots are scheduled to fly for more than eight hours from 2am to 5.59am, according to the time of origin, there must be a third crew member. In Europe, two pilots can fly for more than eight hours and there has never been a worldwide ban on two pilots operating flights for even 10 hours at night.