Of Flashlights and LSAs.

February 3, 2010 by Bruce Landsberg

tecnamNews flash!!!! LSA’s may not be quite as dangerous as some attorneys and their purported “experts” thought. The NTSB’s preliminary accident report involving a Tecnam LSA in Ft. Worth, Texas is now public. This accident generated a lot of media attention because it involved a high school aviation program where students actually get to fly. The flight portion of program was run under contract by a former Tuskegee Airman and a retired American Airlines employee.

Witnesses saw the LSA spin in from altitude with a student and CFI on board. The local newspaper quoted an attorney who noted that LSA aircraft were built to “relaxed standards” implying that they were less safe than FAA-type certificated aircraft. A self-proclaimed expert who sells services to the legal profession also noted that he was seeing more LSA accidents recently. Relative to what? More LSA aircraft are entering the fleet and flying more hours so with greater exposure there might well be more accidents even with a reduction in rate. Is it responsible to make such pronouncements in this context?

Fast forward to the NTSB investigation where a flashlight was found adjacent to the stabilator control linkage in the tail cone. The forward end of the linkage was fractured. This may have occurred during routine maintenance and points in a completely different direction than the speculators would have you believe. A preliminary review shows Tecnam P2002 with a very good safety record to date. The one fatal accident in type was a midair collision.

I understand the media’s desire for instant analysis but perhaps accuracy should come first. Better to say we don’t know than to believe the speculations of those who stand to gain financially from these tragedies. Choose your sources carefully. Maybe lawyers could practice a bit more restraint in talking to the media – you’ll get your day in court, if there’s a case. But then maybe I’m being naive. Ready, Fire, Aim !

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Ken Sharp

    My first thought about this accident occurred when I read that they were cancelling the flying program. Well, maybe “cancelling” is the wrong word, but the impression was, no more flying ’cause flying is dangerous.

    So, my thought and question then was, “What do they do when a high school football player dies during practice?” Do they cancel the football program? Never read anything like that! And never will!

  • Jim Huckemeyer

    Thank you, Bruce, for setting the record straight! We seem to have a lot of people these days who are jumping to conclusions before the facts are known. (And not just in avaition matters.) Keep up the good work!

  • M. E. Atwood

    This aircraft crashed approximately 5 miles from my house and pictures in the news showed an accordian type crumbled airframe. In other words, almost straight down and there witnesses accounts saying the same. My wife asked me what happended and I told her it look like some type of control problem. A flashlight, or any other type monkey wrench, in the controls would certainly qualify. It is truly ashame that the press can’t wait until they have more facts..not to mentioin attorneys.

  • Nate

    You mean a bottom-feeding plaintiff’s attorney and a hired-gun expert witness tried to assign product liability before the facts are in? Color me with the surprised crayon!

    Seriously, as long as civil lawsuits allow for “reasonable attorney’s fees”, this monkey will never get off our back. They might as well call it the “indigent attorney’s right-to-work act”. The trial bar is part of a potent, poisonous cocktail that is killing this country.

  • Bruce L.

    Now that facts have been established, it is time to watch out for legislators and bureaucrats, who will jump on a story like this and then invent a 35 page form to certify that all control linkages have been inspected for foreign objects before each and every flight (including local daytime VFR). They would require that said form must be submitted “for approval” 14 days prior to each flight, along with a $200 “safety fee”. There would also be a 97 page addendum for flying into an ADIZ, or outer ring of a VIP TFR, which would have to be co-signed by a current DAE who had had an FAA-approved colonoscopy within the last 52 days.

  • Bob H.

    LOL Bruce, I was thinking the same thing. You might want to contact some friends in the machinist union. They can get ready for a new kind of safety device that must be attached to every tool they use. We might even be able to predict that they update their acronyms lists to include the “TLT – Tool Locator Transmitter”

    At least RFID tags are light, and usually don’t require batteries, but the infrastructure and annual inspection requirements will be costly. :)

  • http://aopaasfblogsafetyejournal Denne Howard

    Granted that there are a lot of bottom-feeding lawyers out there who will take ANY case,, but keep in mind please that lawyers do not initiate these cases: they are initiated by some creep just wanting to make “free money” by a lawsuit.. sometimes it is just for “go away money” when they know they don’t have a good case. As one of the GOOD attorneys I dislike the bottom-feeders more than anyone….but please don’t blame the lawyers when it is a citizen who HIRES THE LAWYER…
    Estate Planning – Probate lawyer and licensed pilot

  • Al Arena

    A tragic accident that should not dissuade us in our pursuit of the LSA experience. I have been flying the Sierra for two years and have full confidence in its aerodynamic capabilities. This does, however, call attention to the need for performing the required maintenance and safety checks just like you would with any other GA aircraft. My hats off to all of you out there who work so hard to support these efforts and perform the maintenance that keeps us airborne.

  • Chris M

    I agree with Al Arena – lawyers are not the problem. The real problem is that our society is developing a “blame someone else” attitude. Accidents happen, and they are not always due to someone else’s negligence. Perfection is not the Standard of Care for life – and everyone needs to remember that. That said, it is important to add that whoever left a flashlight inside that airplane (LSA is immaterial to the facts at hand), was negligent. If a mechanic leaves a screwdriver on top of your car engine when it is being serviced (and I have quite a collection of them to prove it happens), the consequences are minimal. If an mechanic leaves tools in your airplane, the consequences may or may not be minimal. In this case, whether it was one of the persons building the aircraft or a maintenance mechanic, the consequences cost two people their lives. Complacency kills.

  • Ken Appleby

    I am not sure I buy all this blame the lawyer stuff. This thread focuses on who is saying what (and speculating that lawyers are out to get GA) rather than focusing on the preventable error that may have actually occurred. Having said that, the reality here may be that a mechanic (or someone else) was negligent and two persons lost their lives as a result. Accidents happen but I do not think that gives anyone a free pass on poor conduct.