April 2, 2012

Illinois Lawsuit Filed over Potentially Faulty Air Force Fighter Planes

by Levin & Perconti

Suffocating from a lack of available oxygen is scary, but the sensation is even more terrifying when that oxygen deprivation occurs while piloting an aircraft.

According to a recent report by ABC News, the Air Force has been investigating the source of a mysterious, recurring problem in which pilots in the cockpits of F-22 airplanes have reported experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms,” or a lack of oxygen, in mid-air.

This particular investigation comes on the heels of an Illinois wrongful death case filed by the widow of a pilot who died after a failure in his aircraft cut off oxygen supply during a training mission; allegedly, because of the fact that the oxygen system shut off, the pilot’s plane “entered a sharp dive and, seconds later, crashed, spreading debris more than a quarter mile,” recounted the Air Force's investigative report into the incident. The inquiry also showed he caused him to experience "a sense similar to suffocation," prior to the crash.

The pilot’s widow has brought the Illinois airplane crash lawsuit against the F-22's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, for wrongful death, negligence and fraud. Also named in the suit are other businesses and defense contractors, including Boeing, Honeywell International, and Pratt and Whitney, all of whom are involved in manufacturing various aspects of the F-22 aircraft's systems.

The F-22 airplane is a fighter aircraft designed to be used in combat, and is a prime component in US tactical air power. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, a branch of Lockheed Martin – the global aerospace, defense, and technology company – is the prime contractor, and is responsible for the majority of manufacturing and assembly of the aircraft. Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest defense contractors; in fact, in 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reported that 74% of Lockheed Martin's revenues came from military sales, accounting for 7.1% of the funds paid out by the Pentagon.

Last year, following the particular plane crash out of which this suit arose, the Air Force grounded the entire fleet of F-22 aircrafts to investigate the source of the problem. ABC News reports that they were unable to identify any single problem and have allowed the planes back in the air. Nevertheless, since at least 2008 several pilots have reported experiencing "hypoxia-like symptoms" in mid-air, as a result of a recurring problem with the aircraft’s oxygen system. Additionally, when testifying before Congress in March of this year, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz denied assigning blame to the pilot.

As a result, the pilot’s widow still believes the company is to blame. The complaint alleges that Lockheed Martin knowingly sold the U.S. Air Force "dangerous and defective" planes that did not provide life support systems "that would allow our pilots to survive even routine training missions,” reported ABC.

Our Chicago airplane accident attorneys represent clients in the Chicago, Illinois area who have suffered personal injuries or lost loved ones in aviation accidents. There may be many different factors surrounding an airplane accident that can contribute to its cause. Some of these factors include:
• Faulty Equipment

• FAA Regulation Violations

• Pilot Errors

• Problems in the Design or Structure of an Aircraft

• Flight Service Station Employee Negligence

• Negligence in a Third Party Selection of a Carrier, or
• Federal Air Traffic Controller Negligence

Our attorneys have extensive experience with the unique challenges and complexities of aviation law, which has enabled them to achieve many multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for our clients, including a $2.33 million settlement for the family of a pilot whose Cessna plane crashed due to a defective carburetor part.

A successful outcome in aviation accident litigation requires an understanding of the all the various issues that arise when an aviation accident occurs. If you or a loved one have been injured in an airplane, helicopter, or other aircraft accident, contact an attorney immediately to understand your rights under the law.