PRIVATE SMALL AIRCRAFT & HELICOPTERS “UNFIT FOR FLIGHT”

In the Journal News USA Today section on June 18, 2014, an analysis of small air craft and helicopter crashes are caused by defective parts. 44,407 people have been killed in private plane or helicopter crashes. Hidden defects have caused 50 years of crashes. Just 15% of small aircraft crashes are investigated thoroughly. Tens of thousands of small planes and helicopters lack modern safety gear.

The article points out that an 8 year old was supposed to go on a quick sightseeing tour over Eastern Iowa in her uncle’s four seat Piper Cherokee. The plane took off from Scott Municipal Airport. The airplane elevated briefly and plunged into a field where it exploded into flames causing the 8 year old severe burn of her torso, back, arms, legs and face. Her mother, cousin and her 11 year old sister were killed. Manufacturers and Federal investigators said the pilot lost control of the Piper but, company and government records found a different cause. A faulty carburetor that the manufacturer later urged plane owners to remove the carburetor because it caused engine failure.

Federal investigators have cited pilots as causing or contributing to 86% of private plane crashes. The article points out USA Today investigators shows repeated instances in which crashes, deaths and injuries were caused by defective parts and dangerous designs casting doubts on government rulings. Wide ranged defects have persisted for years as manufacturers covered up problems, lied to regulators and failed to remedy malfunctions. Some defective parts remain in use for decades and some are still in use because manufacturers refused to acknowledge or recall the suspect parts or issue a limited recall that left dangerous parts in hundreds of aircrafts.

As with any industry that consistently denies defects they are sued and have paid hundreds of millions in settlement that they received little or no public attention and Civil Court Judges and juries have found major manufacturers such as Cessna Aircraft, Robinson Helicopter, Mitsubishi Aircraft and Lycoming engines liable for deadly crashes ordering them to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation and punitive damages. These verdicts contradict finding of the National Transportation Safety Board which conduct limited investigations of crashes of private aircraft.

A Florida Judge finding that Cessna had known for many years of potentially lethal defects but hadn’t fixed it wrote in 2001 that the company could be guilty of “reckless disregard for human life”.

USA Today found defects implicated in a series of fatal crashes of small planes and helicopters. Helicopter fuel tanks that easily rupture and ignited causing scores of people to be burned alive after low impact crashes.

– Pilot seats that suddenly slide backward making airplanes nose dive when pilots lose grip of the controls.

– Ice protection systems that fail to warn pilots of dangerous ice build ups that caused crashes.

– Helicopter blades that flop wildly in flight and separate from the mast or cut through the helicopter tail.

– Carburetors such as the one in the Iowa crash that flood or starve engines and had been causing mid air engine failures since 1963 when the Federal Government cited “a serious problem” with a carburetor that caused fatal crashes.

After the Iowa crash, engine maker Lycoming and carburetor maker, Precision Airmotive blamed the pilot. In April, 2013, after a Judge rejected both companies quest to throw out the case, the two companies paid the two men $19 million settlement. The Philadelphia Judge criticized both companies, Precision Airmotive had received more than 100 warranty claims concerning carburetor defect and Lycoming continued to use carburetors even though it “knew of ongoing problems” with them and of numerous plane crashes resulting from such problems.

If you or anyone you know has been involved in an airplane or helicopter accident, contact the Law Firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.