Private & Small Plane Crash Attorneys

Compassionate Lawyers by Your Side Following a Small or Private Plane Accident

Most people associate flying with traveling on a commercial airline. However, more than 90% of the approximately 220,000 registered aircraft in the United States fall into a category called “general aviation.” These smaller types of aircraft hold fewer than 30 passengers and are subject to different regulations than commercial planes. Additionally, in comparison to commercial flights, the rate at which these types of aircraft crash is alarmingly high. If you or a family member were involved in a private or small plane accident, you can trust the small and private plane crash attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger, including Ladd Sanger and Mike Slack, pictured here, to bring you justice. Our aviation lawyers are licensed pilots, as well as experienced litigators who understand the specific issues surrounding private plane regulations and air crashes and have a history of obtaining favorable outcomes in lawsuits for clients.

Types of Private Plane Crashes

There are a variety of reasons why someone may choose to board this type of aircraft, despite the potential risks. Sometimes, taking a private flight is considered a necessity when professionals must conduct business in towns with smaller airports that cannot accommodate larger, commercial airplanes. Other times, people may choose to board a privately owned, wartime aircraft to get a better understanding of history.

Our attorneys bring knowledge and understanding of an aircraft’s history and components to the following types of small and private plane crashes:

Charter and Air Tour Crashes

Charter and air tour operators often transport busy executives, travelers, high-profile athletes, musicians, government officials, and celebrities. In most of these cases, pilots might feel tremendous pressure to maintain schedules and fulfill flight commitments, even when unsafe conditions arise. Flying at night in poor weather or piloting an overloaded aircraft are just two errors in judgment among many that can be recipes for disaster.

In May 2019, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) pushed for further safety regulations for charter flights when two accidents occurred near Ketchikan, Alaska within eight days of each other, resulting in eight fatalities. After these tragedies, the NTSB called for business and charter flight operators to implement safety management systems, record and analyze flight data, and ensure that pilots get the proper training to prevent them from accidentally flying into the ground or into the water. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has implemented these recommendations for the commercial airline industry, these recommendations have not been implemented for the charter and tour flight industry.

Slack Davis Sanger aviation accident lawyers are experienced litigators who understand the specific issues surrounding charter and tour regulations and air crashes, and we use our in-depth knowledge to fight for your interests.

Business Jet Crashes

Some companies transport executives on business jets, because they offer privacy, enhanced security, and an environment that’s more suitable for getting work done. Flights that can’t land at larger airports, due to weather or other reasons, can be diverted to smaller airstrips, which also makes flying on business jets more flexible. However, municipal runways may be in poor condition or can be made out of dirt instead of asphalt, which raises another set of risks for passengers. And although these types of aircraft tend to be operated by professionals and not hobbyists, relaxed rules as compared to commercial airlines increase the risk of a serious crash.

Unfortunately, business jet crashes reached an all-time high for fatalities in 2019, when business jets and turboprops experienced 39 accidents, with 16 of these accidents being fatal. According to preliminary data gathered by Aviation International News, the 77 people who died in 2019 exceeded the previous high of 76 in 2006. Like many airplane crashes, litigating accidents involving business jets requires a unique skillset—one which the lawyers at Slack Davis Sanger possess.

Warbird Crashes

Warbirds are vintage military planes that are now owned by civilians. These historic aircraft may be as much as 70 to 80 years old, with many dating back to just prior to World War II. In a growing number of cities, individuals can pay to take a warbird ride, and these planes are common attractions in local airshows, often on the schedule to showcase military-style maneuvers and other in-air acrobatics. The inherent dangers of flying in a plane with older parts and components, along with the differences in how warbirds are built and fly, mean passengers are at a higher risk of serious injury and even death in a crash. With accomplished attorneys who are also licensed pilots and have experience with these types of cases, Slack Davis Sanger is well-positioned to represent victims and surviving family members in accidents involving warbirds and other specialty aircraft.

International Plane Crashes and Accidents

If flying on a charter or private plane is riskier than taking a commercial flight, one can expect that flying in one of these types of aircraft in another country might also be more dangerous. Pilots in other countries may not be subject to the same requirements as U.S. pilots, and regulations concerning the condition and maintenance of aircraft abroad tend to be less restrictive than those in the U.S. Enforcement of existing laws may also be uneven in other countries, and principles of international law may make proving the cause of an accident less straightforward than in a domestic crash.

Slack Davis Sanger international airplane accident attorneys have extensive experience in a variety of international private plane crash claims, offering clients the legal savvy, technical knowledge, and financial resources to pursue cases against formidable adversaries. As always, our mission is to aggressively seek advantageous resolutions for our clients.

Private Plane Crash Statistics

Private plane crash statistics show that this mode of transportation is dangerous and that despite the increase in accidents year over year, the Federal Aviation Administration is not doing enough to regulate this sector and prevent these tragedies. If you are wondering how many private planes crash in a year, you should know that in 2017, there were 1,233 general aviation accidents and of these accidents, 203 were fatal. The accident rate for general aviation in this year was a shocking 5.67 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. To put that into perspective, more than 3 crashes occurred, on average, every day that year.

In the following year, the number of general aviation accidents increased to a total of 1,275 accidents with an accident rate of 5.9 accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. In comparison, the accident rate for commercial flight in 2018 was .14 accidents per every 100,000 hours flown. Moreover, 97% of all aviation fatalities in 2018 occurred during general aviation operations. These numbers tell us that private flying is more dangerous than traveling in another type of aircraft.

Since regulations for these types of planes are more lax, these aircraft tend to have more mechanical defects and receive less frequent maintenance. Private planes are often operated by amateur pilots, whereas being a commercial airline pilot is a full-time job. As such, pilots of private planes are sometimes less experienced in maneuvering these complicated machines. Small plane pilots also run out of fuel at a much higher rate than commercial pilots, which can lead to deadly consequences.

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According to The National Transportation Safety Board, the most common causes of private plane crashes are:

  • Loss of control
  • System malfunction
  • Abnormal runway contact
  • Insufficient fueling
  • Controlled flight into terrain
  • Collision with an obstacle during takeoff or landing
  • Unintended flight into poor weather conditions
  • Low altitude operations

The Role of Product Liability and Defective Products in Private Plane Crashes

An investigation by USA TODAY found that defective components and dangerous aircraft designs were to blame for a large number of injuries, crashes, and deaths in small planes. After conducting extensive research, the report concluded that while National Transportation Safety Board officials routinely place responsibility on pilots for accidents, a pattern of equipment problems has been covered up by manufacturers, who have kept using parts proven to be defective for years after a crash. In some cases, companies that produced these faulty parts have refused to issue a recall or only partially recalled a product, and at times have failed to acknowledge the problem at all.

Additionally, aircraft manufacturers are protected by The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, or GARA. This act exempts general aviation aircraft manufacturers of all liability if the components in the aircraft or if the aircraft itself is over 18 years old at the time of the accident. This act was created in response to aircraft manufacturers going bankrupt or nearly bankrupt due to lawsuits filed against them, regardless of whether they were at fault. From 1983 to 1986, Beech Aircraft, now known as Beechcraft, defended itself in 203 different lawsuits, of which the NTSB found that none of these accidents could be attributed to manufacturing or design defects.

Although GARA was meant to prevent senseless lawsuits against aircraft manufacturers, the final copy of the act is a mere three pages long and written with ambiguous language, making it possible for aircraft manufacturers to maneuver their way out of liability. Slack Davis Sanger attorneys draw upon extensive experience in product liability and defective product cases to bring justice to the families whose lives have been forever changed due to a small plane crash.

Private Plane Crash Lawyers With the Experience and Knowledge to Pursue Justice

Representing surviving families in private plane crash cases requires special sensitivity. It also requires the ability to project, document, and recover potential future earnings of the deceased. Complex private plane crashes need strong technical and legal skills due to the many potential theories of liability under state, federal, and international law. This knowledge and deep insight into all facets of the aviation industry enable Slack Davis Sanger airplane accident attorneys, where appropriate, to file suit in jurisdictions most advantageous to our clients.

At Slack Davis Sanger we are proud of our long and successful record of relentlessly pursuing claims for our aviation clients in the aftermath of an accident. We are ready to assist when you need us. We welcome the opportunity to simply your lives by removing the burden or worry over what the future may hold. We will tackle the complexities of an aviation accident case and provide you with the comfort and support structure you need and deserve. To schedule a free case review with an aviation accident attorney, please call 800-455-8686 or fill out our contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there any place I can go to find out whether the airline, tour operator or charter operator I am flying with has had any crashes or other problems?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is a federal agency charged with investigating significant aviation, railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline accidents. Since 1962, the NTSB has maintained a publicly accessible database of civil aviation accidents and incidents that you can search. Just go to the Aviation Accident Database and enter the company’s name under Event Details in the field “Enter your word string below.”

What are some questions I can ask an operator to learn more about how safe my charter plane will be?

A few of the questions you might consider asking your operator include:

  • Do you follow a Safety Management System protocol? If so, is it approved by the ISB-AO?
  • How many flight hours does my pilot have in the specific type of plane in which I will be a passenger?
  • What is the average retention rate of your pilots?
  • Which certifications does your fleet maintain? Are they up to date?
  • Do you exceed FAA Part 135 pilot and crew standards or just meet them?
  • Which certification and release standards do you follow?
  • What data do you keep centrally on your aircraft and crews to manage your fleet and keep track of safety screenings?
  • What additional layers of insurance have you assumed, and how long have those been in place?

If you aren't comfortable with the responses of the company representative, you may want to select another, safer mode of transport.

If I was a victim in an overseas small plane crash or accident (or if I lost a loved one), how do I know Slack Davis Sanger can take on a case in the country in which the incident occurred?

Being involved in a catastrophic event or experiencing the loss of a family member can be overwhelming. With over 25 years of experience in litigating air crashes across the world, you can rest assured that the attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger will apply a unique blend of experience, knowledge, and resources to fight for your interests against overseas operators.

What types of damages can be recovered in an aviation accident involving a small plane or charter?

A settlement in an aviation case, regardless of the size of the plane, can include pain and suffering, medical bills, and past, current, and future loss of wages. If a fatal accident occurs, the victim’s relatives may be eligible for loss of support, funeral expenses, and damages that the deceased would have provided to family members.

Who can be held responsible if I lose a loved one in a small plane crash?

A skilled aviation attorney will conduct a thorough investigation to determine who is at fault in the case of a private plane crash or accident. An aircraft owner or operator, an aircraft manufacturer, maintenance vendors, air traffic control, an insurer, or the pilot may be at fault.

What is the statute of limitations for small plane aviation accidents?

A statute of limitations places a time limit that dictates how long after an accident you have to make a claim. This time period varies, depending on where and how you file a lawsuit — whether in state, federal, or international court.

What do the statistics tell us about the most dangerous part of a flight?

According to research conducted by Boeing into commercial flights between 2007 and 2016, 48% of fatal crashes occurred during the final descent and landing. Take-off and the initial ascent represent the second-most-deadly portion of a flight, or 13% of fatal accidents. These stages are sometimes referred to as the "plus three minus eight" rule, meaning that a majority of plane crashes take place during either the first three minutes or the last eight minutes of a flight.