Lack of Proper Engine Inspection Results in Private and Small Plane Crash Lawsuit

Case Title: McKenna v. Pratt & Whitney

On October 18, 2005, at approximately 11:15 PM, a single-engine Cessna 208 turbo-prop airplane with registration number N978FE was forced to land after it lost power near Round Rock, Texas. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed. The cross-country flight originated at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and was destined for Perot Field Fort Worth Alliance Airport, near Fort Worth, Texas. This night cargo flight was a regularly scheduled run that the pilot had made many times. In advance of the flight, the pilot had the plane fueled and performed appropriate pre-flight inspections before departure. Shortly after departure, after the pilot had leveled off at 7,000 feet, he reported a total power loss. The pilot attempted to perform a forced landing on a road below, but the right wing collided with a utility pole, and, ultimately, the plane came to rest against a residential home. No one in the home was injured in the accident, but the pilot sustained injuries.

Cause of the Accident

The cause of the engine failure was determined to be the failure of the engine-driven fuel pump. On the engine design of this model, the engine fuel pump is driven from the accessory gearbox by a spline. Pratt & Whitney calls for an “in-situ” inspection of this pump every 600 hours by looking for a reddish-brown stain inside the fuel pump drain port. This inspection had been completed approximately 130 hours before the accident. The engine had a total flight time of 9,852 hours, with 5,574 hours since overhaul.  After the accident, the drive splines for the accessory gearbox were found not to rotate, and the telltale reddish-brown stain was noted on the accessory gearbox. Ultimately, the NTSB determined that the wear on the spline drive and coupling prevented full engagement of the spline drives. Inadequate inspection of the engine-driven fuel pump was determined to be a contributing factor to the accident.

The pilot was able to extract himself from the wreckage but suffered multiple facial lacerations and injuries to his extremities, as well as burns and a concussion. Slack Davis Sanger represented the pilot, alleging that the lack of proper engine inspection had caused the airplane to be unsafe and not airworthy. Through extensive investigation and negotiation on behalf of the client, Slack Davis Sanger secured a settlement to assist him and his family with his extensive medical bills and other expenses resulting from this accident.

Mike Slack has been practicing law for over 36 years and has litigated hundreds of lawsuits. His experience as a licensed pilot and former NASA aerospace engineer gives him unique insight into aviation accident lawsuits.

Date of Incident

October 18, 2005

Location of Incident

Round Rock, Texas

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