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Small plane manufacturer facing numerous lawsuits over alleged design defect, P.1

We’ve previously written on this blog about small aircraft accidents, and the fact that a certain percentage of these accidents are caused by design defects. The types of defects that lead to small aircraft accidents vary, depending on the manufacturer. Some of these defects can really put consumers at risk.

Right now, Piper Aircraft, Inc., a manufacturer of small aircraft based out of Florida, is facing a number of lawsuits over just such a design defect. According to the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuits, hundreds of the manufacturer’s aircrafts have broken up in midflight, leading to injuries and fatalities. Piper has settled a number of lawsuits involving the allegations, but on the condition that the parties keep the settlement details confidential. 

The problem, according to plaintiffs, seems to be in the way Piper designed its plane’s stabilator, which is the set of wings on the tail of the plane that control ascent and descent. Some experts who have looked at the design say the stabilator is not reinforced strongly enough and can become unstable in certain flight conditions, eventually causing parts of the plane to break up in midflight.

Piper has defended its stabilator design, pointing out that the National Transportation Safety Board has filed reports in over 200 cases involving midair breakups and has mostly blamed them on pilot error, in many cases in connection with poor weather. The NTSB has apparently never said that a design defect was to blame in any case. Piper also says its aircraft are certified by the Federal Aviation administration, the federal agency responsible for regulating civil aviation.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at this litigation and the importance of working with an experienced attorney when pursuing aviation design defect cases. 

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