Slack & Davis Obtains Winning Verdict Against Global Aviation Service for Failure to Repair Known Engine Problem

Mark Pierce, lead attorney and of counsel to Slack & Davis, obtained a winning verdict against repair station Global Aviation Services, Inc. who negligently failed to properly inspect and repair a Twin Commander aircraft with a known history of loss of engine power, causing pilot trainee Rupom Sajib to sustain severe injuries when the pilot in command was forced to crash-land. Global was fully aware of the aircraft’s engine problems, but returned it to service and represented it was airworthy.

Pierce commented, “Global knew about the airplane’s problem with loss of engine power only days before the crash. Even with this knowledge, Global chose not to get to the root cause of the engine issues and instead put several people in danger.”

Background on Crash

On June 15, 2015, Sajib and pilot in command Burl James Wilkerson were on board the aircraft for a familiarization and demonstration flight at the Victoria Regional Airport in Victoria, Texas. Shortly after takeoff, power on both engines decreased substantially and the left engine failed catastrophically. Wilkerson alerted air traffic control that he was experiencing a problem and steered the plane into an open field to the left of the runway. Sajib sustained severe injuries in the crash landing.

Background on Global

Through the years, Global extensively maintained and repeatedly inspected the airplane for necessary repairs. Global was familiar with the condition and history of its engines; however, Global not only failed to properly inspect the engines for the known deficiencies, it assigned a mechanic to do the inspections and repairs who had no experience with piston aircraft engines. Further, Global produced incorrect and incomplete records that are required of a certified repair station under the Federal Aviation Regulations.

Attorney Paula Knippa said, “Global failed to exercise the expected degree of care for the safety of the airplane’s passengers and the public. Even more egregious was their knowledge of the issues that would likely cause serious injuries. They completely disregarded the potential consequences of their substandard work.”

The jury in the 61st Judicial District Court of Texas (Cause No. 2015-27690-7) ruled in favor of Sajib.

Helicopter Fuel Tank Explosions Gets NTSBs Attention

In a Safety Recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is finally urging them to take action on Airbus (formerly known as Eurocopter) helicopters to incorporate crash-resistant fuel systems into their helicopters. This safety recommendation was prompted by numerous crashes, including most recently two accidents in 2015, resulting in fatal or serious injuries due to post-crash fires that otherwise could have been survivable. Due to design defects, these fuel systems are known to rupture on impact, resulting in the death and injury of thousands of passengers and pilots.

Slack & Davis, a law firm that has handled more than a dozen helicopter crash cases involving post-crash fires caused by compromised fuel systems, has been advocating this change for years. “We identified the lack of a crashworthy fuel system in several helicopters and started advocating a design change ten years ago,” said Ladd Sanger, an attorney who was instrumental in getting Robinson Helicopter Company to change the design of the fuel system of the R-44 helicopter reduce the likelihood of post-crash fires. “We are proud that we have been able to get one manufacturer to change its design to incorporate design changes which make the fuel system more robust in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, otherwise survivable post-crash fires have continued to occur because some manufacturers have ignored the problem until they are faced with the consequences of their poor designs through the civil justice system.”

In October of 1994 the FAA changed the standards governing certification requiring that the fuel tank systems could withstand a 50-foot drop without leakage. Sanger explains that Airbus Helicopters’ (formerly Eurocopter) AS-350 model helicopters received their FAA certification in December of 1977. Although the helicopter’s design has evolved and Airbus Helicopters has made incremental redesigns of its fuel tank system over the years, the company still relies on the old 1977 certification tests and approvals for helicopters built today.

“In the Colorado crash noted in the NTSBs memo, the AS-350 B3 fuel system is not crashworthy. This was a survivable crash, but for the compromised fuel system, these injuries would have been much less severe and likely not fatal,” Sanger said. “Airbus has known about the vulnerabilities of its design for years yet the company continues to this day to hide behind the legal defense that the helicopter is safe because it received FAA certification. As the NTSB has found, the FAA certification has been inadequate because of the reality is the fuel systems in these helicopters rupture in even relatively minor crashes.”

Thankfully for some of Slack & Davis’ clients, they were only exposed to chemical burns from the fuel, not a horrific burn injury or death. Sanger said, “They were the lucky ones, as the jet fuel did not ignite. Hopefully the industry will use the NTSBs recommendation to bring about real change to the fuel system and not hide behind the fact that the FAA certified the helicopter’s original design nearly 40 years ago.”

Helicopter Fuel Tank Explosions Gets NTSB Attention

In a Safety Recommendation to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is finally urging them to take action on Airbus (formerly known as Eurocopter) helicopters to incorporate crash-resistant fuel systems into their helicopters. This safety recommendation was prompted by numerous crashes, including most recently two accidents in 2015, resulting in fatal or serious injuries due to post-crash fires that otherwise could have been survivable. Due to design defects, these fuel systems are known to rupture on impact, resulting in the death and injury of thousands of passengers and pilots.

Slack & Davis, a law firm that has handled more than a dozen helicopter crash cases involving post-crash fires caused by compromised fuel systems, has been advocating this change for years. “We identified the lack of a crashworthy fuel system in several helicopters and started advocating a design change ten years ago,” said Ladd Sanger, an attorney who was instrumental in getting Robinson Helicopter Company to change the design of the fuel system of the R-44 helicopter reduce the likelihood of post-crash fires. “We are proud that we have been able to get one manufacturer to change its design to incorporate design changes which make the fuel system more robust in the event of a crash. Unfortunately, otherwise survivable post-crash fires have continued to occur because some manufacturers have ignored the problem until they are faced with the consequences of their poor designs through the civil justice system.”

In October of 1994 the FAA changed the standards governing certification requiring that the fuel tank systems could withstand a 50-foot drop without leakage. Sanger explains that Airbus Helicopters’ (formerly Eurocopter) AS-350 model helicopters received their FAA certification in December of 1977. Although the helicopter’s design has evolved and Airbus Helicopters has made incremental redesigns of its fuel tank system over the years, the company still relies on the old 1977 certification tests and approvals for helicopters built today.

“In the Colorado crash noted in the NTSBs memo, the AS-350 B3 fuel system is not crashworthy. This was a survivable crash, but for the compromised fuel system, these injuries would have been much less severe and likely not fatal,” Sanger said. “Airbus has known about the vulnerabilities of its design for years yet the company continues to this day to hide behind the legal defense that the helicopter is safe because it received FAA certification. As the NTSB has found, the FAA certification has been inadequate because of the reality is the fuel systems in these helicopters rupture in even relatively minor crashes.”

Thankfully for some of Slack & Davis’ clients, they were only exposed to chemical burns from the fuel, not a horrific burn injury or death. Sanger said, “They were the lucky ones, as the jet fuel did not ignite. Hopefully the industry will use the NTSBs recommendation to bring about real change to the fuel system and not hide behind the fact that the FAA certified the helicopter’s original design nearly 40 years ago.”

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Issues Recall on B-Safe Car Seats

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall affecting B-Safe car seats. According to the recall notice, “the car seat carry handle can crack and break allowing the seat to fall unexpectedly, posing a risk of injury to the infant.” This recall affects the B-Safe 35 and B-Safe 35 Elite models, that were manufactured between October 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015. Roughly 71,000 infant car seats in the U.S. are affected by this recall. Continue reading