About Plane Crashes and Helicopter Accidents
Flying in an aircraft such as an airplane or helicopter is statistically much safer than traveling by car or truck. However, accidents do occur when flying in aircraft, and the injuries sustained by the victims are often more frequently severe than in a car accident due to the speed and altitude at which aircraft travel. Additionally, fatalities are much more likely in such accidents.
Illustrating this fact are the aviation accident statistics: 100-200 aviation accidents occur every year, but the fatality count for these accidents usually number around 1,000 to 1,500. There are many causes for these accidents, but negligence is almost always a factor, whether it is on the part of the pilot, the airline, the airport maintenance crew, the flight traffic controllers, or the manufacturers of the aircraft or its component parts. If you’ve been injured or have lost a loved one in an aviation accident then it is imperative you contact a skilled attorney from our firm who can represent your best interests and fight for the compensation you are owed from the parties responsible.
Aircraft sometimes have to work at low altitudes. Helicopter operators are a good example. If an aircraft strikes an electrical power line, death is almost certain to occur. Unfortunately, these accidents are almost entirely preventable. Solutions include: (a) relatively inexpensive “marker balls” placed by utilities on their lines in areas where aircraft are known to fly low or have had prior crashes; (b) “wire strike protection systems,” which are cutting blades placed on the front of a helicopter which can actually slice through any electrical line encountered; and (c) line warning systems, which give beeping warnings to pilots approaching overhead lines. We have handled multiple cases involving wire strikes, including one case in which a jury awarded $14,000,000 to the relatives of Army servicemen who were killed in a helicopter on a training mission after they struck practically invisible lines spanning a river where aircraft were known to fly regularly, and where a prior wire strike had occurred years before.
We recently handled a case in which a pilot giving aviation lessons to a pilot-in-training botched a landing and flipped over the small aircraft on the runway, causing our client back injuries. Make sure you hire an experienced aviation attorney for these kinds of cases.
Often the problem is with the plane itself. Our firm worked on a case that resulted in a huge, eight-figure jury verdict in a case involving parachutists who were killed when their aircraft’s engine failed right after takeoff.
Case Study: The Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Crash. A Textbook Example of an Airplane Manufacturer Putting Profits and Greed Ahead of Passenger Safety
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed, killing all 157 people on board. The aircraft involved was a Boeing 737 MAX 8. The crash came just five months after another Boeing 737 MAX 8, Lion Air Flight JT 610 crashed in the Java Sea on October 29, 2018, killing all 189 people onboard. The facts known already show that the two fateful flights bore striking similarities, and appear to be caused by known problems with the Boeing aircraft. Shortly after takeoff, while attempting to climb, pilots for both aircraft reported flight control issues as the plane pitched erratically up and down. The flight paths and data recorder for both aircraft showed that the pilots tried desperately to regain control of the aircraft, but the computer system in the planes caused the plane to dive down despite pilot actions.
Boeing’s main competitor in the commercial airplanes division is Airbus. When Airbus launched its more fuel-efficient airliner, the A320neo, Boeing became concerned that some of its primary customers, such as American Airlines, began placing orders for the A320neo. Boeing became worried that it would lose profits, and began a process to launch an aircraft which could compete with Airbus’ new plane. Because the design of an entirely new jet would take too long, Boeing decided to create a more fuel-efficient alternative to the traditional 737NG aircraft. In August 2011, Boeing launched the 737 MAX family of aircraft. In designing the 737 MAX 8, it was important to market the upgrade as simply an upgrade to its already-certified 737NG, so that FAA approval could be obtained quickly without extensive pilot re-training, and without the need for pilots to undergo training in a simulator.
The design of the 737 MAX 8 required more powerful engines, which needed to be moved further forward on the plane, which in turn required moving the forward landing gear. This required the MAX 8 to handle differently from the 737NG. A pilot operating the 737 MAX 8 would find that the plane would ascend faster and at a higher angle, thereby increasing the risk of a stall.
In order to prevent such a stall, the Boeing engineers included a new automated flight-control system called the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, or “MCAS.” The MCAS collected data from a sensor on the fuselage called an “Angle-of-Attack” sensor or “AOA Sensor.” If the AOA sensor measures the angle between the wing of the plane on the oncoming airflow at the front of the plane. If the AOA sensor registers that the angle of the plane is too high, the MCAS system automatically swivels the horizontal tail to lift the plane’s tail while moving the nose of the plane down.
There was an AOA sensor installed on the front of the plane on both the right and left. However, the MCAS system was not designed to take data from both the right and left sensor to validate readings. Therefore, if one AOA sensor gave false readings, the MCAS system could move the plane, forcing it to dive.
Because the MCAS was designed to operate in the background, Boeing did not even inform pilots that MCAS existed. The MCAS system was not disclosed in the aircraft’s flight manual. Pilots would only learn of the MCAS system when the plane began automatically fighting their pitch commands. In a November 2018 meeting with the pilots’ union, a Boeing executive explained that they did not disclose the system so as not to “inundate” pilots with too much information about the new plane.
In submitting its documentation to the FAA, Boeing represented that the MCAS system could only move the horizontal tail a maximum of 0.6 degrees, when, in fact, the MCAS system could move the tail 2.5 degrees, more than four times what was represented. The FAA would not learn of Boeing’s deception until 189 people were killed in the Indonesian Lion Air crash.
Boeing had the option of installing at least two safety features to make sure a problem with the AOA sensor would not cause a crash. They purposely chose not to install either one.
On October 29, 2018, Lion Air flight JT 610 departed from Jakarta, Indonesia. Shortly after takeoff, the pilots complained of flight control issues. It appears that one of the AOA sensors was providing false readings to the MCAS system, and was showing that the plane was proceeding at an angle 20 degrees different than what the other AOA sensor was showing. It appears as though the MCAS system then took control and sent the plane into a dive mode.
Following the crash, Boeing knew that its AOA sensors and MCAS were the problem. Boeing issued an Airworthiness Directive on November 6, 2018 identifying the potential danger presented by the flight control system, but not providing clear direction on what pilots should do in the event of a future AOA failure. Despite the known dangers to its airplane, however, Boeing refused to ground the 737 MAX 8.
On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Flight 302 took off from Addis Abba en route to Nairobi, Kenya. Within one minute of departure, the pilot announced that he was having flight control problems. The plane began pitching up and down. Minutes later, the plane crashed into a field, killing all 157 people on board. It appears that once again, a combination of the AOA sensor and the MCAS system caused the plane to pitch downward and crash.
This is an egregious example of airplane manufacturers putting their greed for profits over the safety of the traveling public. To include such a defective system in an airplane, not advise the pilots of its presence, and then fail to take any appropriate action after his defects caused 189 people to lose their lives, is simply unconscionable.
If your loved one was killed in either the Lion Air crash or the Ethiopian Airlines crash call 949-577-8177, our law firm would be happy to help your family obtain justice against Boeing. Lawsuits are currently being filed in Chicago, which is Boeing’s headquarters. Our lawyers are licensed in Illinois and would be happy to speak with you about your case.
Effective Representation for Aviation Victims
The consequences of a plane or helicopter accident can be extreme for the victim and the victim’s loved ones. The victim’s injuries may leave them permanently disabled or paralyzed, or they may have been killed in the crash, leaving the family to suffer from considerable emotional and mental trauma. The Medler Law Firm believes that the parties responsible should bear the cost of the medical bills and pain and suffering they have caused, and we work diligently to uphold the rights and interests of victims to help them pursue the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact our offices today if you have been injured or suffered the loss of a loved one in an aviation accident, and our team will build a comprehensive case to seek a fair settlement for you injuries and losses.
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