Malfunctioning Hypoxia Detection System Results in General Aviation Lawsuit

Case Title: Kinsinger (Estate of John) v. Cirrus and Garmin

On January 3, 2018, a Cirrus SR22T airplane, N325JK, was reported missing over the Gulf of Mexico. It was eventually discovered that the plane had crashed into the water. The plane had departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for Georgetown Municipal Airport in Georgetown, Texas. The pilot was flying to pick up a rescue dog to transport back to an Oklahoma City animal rescue group with which he volunteered. As the pilot approached Georgetown Municipal Airport, the air traffic controller instructed him to turn right and descend. Instead, the pilot turned left. The controllers made many attempts to contact him but were not able to. Eventually, two groups of fighter jets were sent to track the plane. They dropped flares and flew in front of the plane but received no response from the pilot. One of the military pilots stated that he saw the pilot slumped over the controls as they flew alongside him. The plane was last seen in flight near Cancun, Mexico. The next day, the United States Coast Guard began searching for wreckage, but they did not find any. In April 2018, the Coast Guard issued a letter stating that the pilot was presumed dead. Although the body has not been recovered, the pilot is believed to have suffered from hypoxia, which can cause unconsciousness at high altitudes.

The Cirrus was equipped with a Hypoxia Recognition Automatic Descent Mode system designed to automatically start the plane’s descent when a pilot may be suffering from hypoxia. In the event that a pilot seems not to be alert, the system issues an alert that the pilot must respond to. This system did not perform as specified, leading to the eventual loss of the aircraft and the pilot’s remains as the plane flew until it ran out of gas over the ocean. Slack Davis Sanger represented the pilot’s estate in this case over his tragic death.

Ladd Sanger is an attorney and a licensed pilot who focuses on aviation accidents, including product liability, product litigation, and representing clients who have been injured as a result of aviation accidents. His experience as a pilot helps him understand the technical aspects of aviation crashes.

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