Archive for January, 2009

Ancient Aircraft = Liability?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Does anyone else besides me think the legal system sometimes gets a little wacky?

I came across a news item that is both amusing and infuriating, if that’s possible. According to the Miami Herald, “Chalk’s Ocean Airways claims the Grumman Turbo Mallard was “not adequately designed for its intended purpose,” and sued Grumman over a seaplane crash. ” The 58 year old seaplane crashed in 2005 killing 18 passengers and two crew members after a wing separated. Wings don’t just fall off and this one didn’t either: corrosion and fatigue were noted as the probable cause. The last one was built in 1951.

Never mind that these aircraft have literally flown all over the world for decades and this was the last one in commercial service. The Herald: ”Chalk’s lost everything,” said John Eversole, the company’s lawyer, said. “They were put out of business by the defective nature of this airplane. It is as simple as that, and to be wrongly blamed by the NTSB is even worse for your reputation.”

The NTSB noted that the airline failed to fix fatigue cracks and the FAA failed to provide proper oversight of the airline’s maintenance. I can see how that might be damaging to a company’s reputation, especially if the facts were supported.

Plaintiffs suing manufacturers on decades old aircraft has some similarity to a reported lawsuit filed by NASCAR against Cessna for what appears to be an electrical fire. That resulted in a fatal accident with a 30-year-old Cessna 310. ASF is watching that one closely and will be attending an NTSB hearing later this month. Stay tuned. The General Aviation Revitalization Act, or GARA, limits manufacturer liability to 18 years but there are exceptions.

We agree that manufacturers need to be responsible for their products but is it only in aviation that companies can be held liable indefinitely? It will be interesting to see if the legal system has the integrity to seriously question what I believe is an unjustified suit – without running up a huge tab.

Aging aircraft need special care and ASF has an online course to help you deal with the practicalities, if not the legalities. Aging Aircraft Interactive Course.

The bird always loses but…..

Thursday, January 8th, 2009
This PA28 instructional flight , amazingly, landed safely after collision with a Turkey Buzzard.

This PA28 instructional flight, amazingly, landed safely after collision with a Turkey Buzzard.

Bird strikes are one of those things that, seemingly pilots can do little about. However, those flying turbine aircraft have good reason to be wary as a bird up the engine(s) can be catastrophic and there have been horrific accidents, usually on takeoff, where bird ingestion has created fatal engine indigestion.

The instructor on the F-16 that loses engine on takeoff to a birdstrike is masterful in his guidance to the student. They ultimately have to resort to the Houdini seats that none of us have but a BRS parachute might help in certain circumstances.

I’ll admit to having been somewhat smug about bird encounters and have suffered little as little birds have done little or no damage to non critical parts of the piston aircraft I flew. But birds are very big deal if you happen to be in the wrong place. The University of North Dakota lost a Piper Seminole and two aviation students in 2007 after a night cross country encounter with a flock of Canada Geese. At least one bird hit the stabilator causing the aircraft to depart controlled flight in a matter of seconds and crash shortly thereafter.

Bird strikes are a bigger deal than we in the GA community generally acknowledge as 80% typically go unreported (not sure how they arrive at that number) but a few statistics: The USAF reported over 4,300 in 2004 and a 12 pound Canada goose that collides with a 150 knot aircraft will exert a force of over 1,000 pounds according to information published on the US Birdstike Committee website. The committee estimates over $600 million annual damage to aircraft.

The videos and the pictures speak for themselves.

This is another link to an airliner who caught one and lost one on takeoff.

For more info: ASF Safety Topic-Bird Hazards
I’d be curious of the circumstances surrounding your bird strikes, if any. It’s something we should discuss more.