Articles Posted in Aviation

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A fatal helicopter crash that occurred 30 miles south of Rockford on Monday night has raised questions on the safety of helicopters, reports the Chicago Tribune. The fatal accident claimed the lives of the pilot and two nurses while they were heading back to Rockford community hospital after aborting their planned flight to Mendota Community Hospital because of deteriorating weather conditions. Bad weather is the most common cause of all aviation accidents, and the National Weather Service reported light snow and sleet that day.

After this accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) is pressuring the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) to mandate safety improvements for the oft-dangerous air ambulance industry. The current system is voluntary compliance; an FAA strategy that critics say is not effective enough. For example, there are broad inconsistencies in pilot training; safety-related communications and navigation equipment aboard medical helicopters are handled by independent operators hired mostly by hospitals, who may not have sufficient training. In fact, the job of helicopter emergency crewmember ranks as the highest-risk occupation based upon death rates, beating out deep-sea fisherman, and logger as well as nine other hazardous jobs according to a study conducted a few years ago by Dr. Ira Blumen of the University of Chicago Hospitals.

Emergency medical helicopter pilots often make decisions about weather conditions while in the middle of a flight, and because most of their trips involve life or death situations, many pilots choose to continue their trips even though weather conditions are dangerous. Stricter safety mandates by the FAA could decrease such dangerous decisions by these courageous helicopter pilots. The NTSB has made over 50 recommendations to government and the air ambulance industry since 1988, but so far they have fallen on deaf ears. However the FAA may eventually be forced to act on this issue as the air ambulance industry continues to grow dramatically and the fatalities are beginning to mount. The NTSB reports at least 110 emergency medical helicopter crashes, with over 105 fatalities from 2003 through July of this year. In 2008 alone 29 people died in 13 accidents. The FAA recommends that operators should take advantage of digital data programs that help predict weather patterns so that they will make more informed decisions about whether to fly during adverse weather conditions. On the other hand, the NTSB recommends the use of flight simulators, night-vision imaging systems and autopilot technology on the medical helicopters. However, very few of these have been officially adopted by the FAA.

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Although the crash happened internationally, the Associated Press reports that a man whose wife died when a commercial airliner crashed into a crowded neighborhood overseas has recently filed a lawsuit here in Chicago that blames the accident, at least in part, on U.S. companies that designed, manufactured, and sold parts for, the defective plane.

The lawsuit was filed this month in the U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of the man whose wife was one of the victims of a plane crash that also happened earlier this month, and which killed at least 153 passengers who were on-board the aircraft, as well as an undetermined number of civilians on the ground. Because a complete death toll could take several weeks to complete, officials aren’t yet sure of the extent of the damage, though reports indicate that the aircraft crashed into two apartment buildings and two local businesses.

Apparently, as the airplane was on its way down, the flight’s captain radioed air traffic controllers, declaring an emergency because both of the aircraft’s engines had failed. As a result, the suit is being brought against, among others, Chicago-based Boeing Co., which bought the McDonnell-Douglas manufacturer of the plane, and American-based engine-maker Pratt & Whitney, reports the Associated Press.

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This afternoon, our Chicago aviation accident attorneys were devastated by the news of a colossal airplane accident that may have killed as many as 153 people. Authorities have not yet established a final death count on today’s crash, but have announced that they are not expecting to find survivors, reported MSNBC.

Local reports also indicate that, in addition to passengers and crew aboard the plane, an unknown number of civilians may have also been killed at the location where the plane went down. MSNBC reports that the aircraft crashed into a building and broke into two before burning up; at least three buildings were severely damaged, and people inside were likely to be hurt as well.

Although it’s still too early to officially proclaim the cause of the accident, witnesses stated that the plane may have hit a power line, despite good visibility in clear and sunny weather. Additionally, the plane had been undergoing repairs for several weeks, said MSNBC.

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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.

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Recently one of the largest ever air crash disaster verdicts was awarded to a doctor and his fiancé who were the survivors of a plane crash that left both permanently injured.

The $11.35 million verdict was awarded to the couple as compensation for their injuries and for the woman’s future loss of income; she had been a professional pilot, but can no longer fly because the lasting injuries preclude her from passing the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) medical examination.

The judgment was against Winner Aviation, an American corporation that was responsible for maintaining the plane; the jury found that the plane had not been properly maintained prior to the crash, which was a principle cause of the accident. When a corporation voluntarily takes responsibility for ensuring the condition of equipment, and a failure on the part of the company to do so results in injuries to others, that company may be held legally liable for damages resulting from those injuries. In situations like these, Illinois personal injury lawsuits may arise.

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Our Chicago personal injury attorneys were devastated to hear about the recent airplane crash that occurred in Crystal Lake, Illinois, last week. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, four people were killed when the plane went down near the Northwest Chicago Suburb on November 26.

The single-engine plane crashed in a field in McHenry County, near the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 14 and Ridgefield Road. Officials said that four out-of-state residents were killed when the plane crashed, but at the time of the Tribune‘s report, the victims had not yet been identified. The McHenry County Deputy Coroner reported that the decedents appeared to be two men and two women, all of whom were over the age of 18. Fortunately no one on the ground was injured by the crash, but all four passengers were pronounced dead at the scene.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had no information as to the place from which the plane took off, or its ultimate destination. The FAA is the national aviation authority for the United States, and is an agency that regulates and oversees all aspects of aviation in the country. The FAA did, however, say that the aircraft’s pilot was operating under “Visual Flight Rules” and was not in touch with air traffic control.

When a pilot operates an airplane under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), it essentially means he or she is flying the plane under a set of regulations that are designed to allow a pilot to fly the plane based only on what the pilot can see out of the window of the cockpit. Under VFR, the weather must be clear and “better than basic VFR minimums,” as specified by the FAA – otherwise the pilot must use radio control or other flight instruments to guide the plane.

Visual Flight rules require that a pilot is able to see outside the window of the cockpit to navigate the aircraft and “see and avoid obstacles and other aircrafts.” Because they have chosen not to use outside help or devices to help fly the plane, pilots who fly under VFR assume responsibly for their flight. As per the Chicago Tribune‘s coverage of the story, the National Transportation Safety Board is heading an investigation to determine whether the rules of flight were followed, if the plane was properly maintained and registered, and if the pilot was in fact licensed to fly the plane.
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Our Chicago personal injury attorneys were saddened to read a recent news story about newlywed tourists killed in a sightseeing helicopter crash this past week.

MSNBC reported that the pilot and four passengers – including a newlywed couple – were killed when the helicopter went down. The passengers were on what was intended to be a 45-minute tour; local weather reports cited heavy rainsqualls in the area at the time, and officials are now considering that weather was a significant factor in the crash.

According to recent news reports, the EC-130 model helicopter involved in the crash was less than one year old, and had been leased from Nevada Helicopter Leasing LLC. The pilot was flying the plane as part of his employment with a company named Blue Hawaiian that conducts approximately 160,000 helicopter tours each year. This is Blue Hawaiian’s second helicopter crash this decade.

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The first lawsuit has been filed following a devastating situation in which a racing airplane crashed into bystanders during the National Championship Air Races. Our Chicago personal injury attorneys were saddened to hear that 11 people were killed in the tragic incident, and another 74 were injured.

The suit was filed this past Tuesday against the pilot’s family, a mechanic who serviced the WWII-era aircraft, and the organization hosting the event. According to a recent report released by the Associated Press, modifications had been made to the plane that were intended to improve its racing potential, but may have instead caused or contributed to cause the accident. The pilot – an expert movie stunt pilot and aircraft racer – was aware of the changes.

After the plane took off, it rolled over and plummeted into the occupied box-seats at a speed of more than 400 miles per hour.

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The manufacturer of the small plane that baseball player Cory Lidle and a flight instructor were piloting when they crashed into a Manhattan apartment building five years ago denied blame for the wrongful death. The lawyer for the plane manufacturer said that the victims, not the company, were to blame for their wrongful deaths. Opening statements recently begun in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by Mr. Lidle’s wife and the family of his flight instructor, blaming Cirrus Design Corporation for the flight crash. The baseball player was only 34 years of age and died just days after his baseball season ended. The wrongful death lawsuit plaintiff’s attorney told jurors that their lawsuit would prove that the company rushed the plane into production a decade ago with an inferior control system. The attorney stated that the victims desperately tried to re-engage a jammed steering system as the plane went out of control and dropped altitude in the last 45 seconds before the crash.
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Fortunately, no personal injuries have been reported after a Southwest Airlines flight at Chicago-Midway Airport slid off of a runway and into a patch of mud Tuesday afternoon. The flight, which was coming in from Denver, was carrying 134 passengers including five babies in addition to five crew members. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”), the plane landed on the runway at a little after 1:00 p.m., sliding off of the left edge near the end of the runway. It came to a stop on a grassy area near the Chicago intersection of Cicero Avenue and 63rd Street, about 150 feet from a wall that separates the airport grounds from the street. The nose was pointed directly at a White Castle drive-through across Cicero Avenue.

The unharmed passengers were taken off of the plane down a wheeled stairway and the runway involved was shut down. The other runways at Chicago Midway Airport remained open. Tuesday’s weather was wet, rainy, and windy. The runway was also wet and winds were 15 knots gusting to 21 knots, according to the Chicago Tribune who had received the information from an aviation source. Passengers Tuesday evening recounted that the landing felt different than most – one passenger involved in the Chicago flight landing accident described that it felt like the plane was landing in a lake because of the water on the runway. Many of the passengers credited the pilot for their safety, saying that he landed in the best way possible, despite the difficulties.
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