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U.S. Aviation Accidents Law Blog

How common is pilot drug abuse?

Anytime you board a flight in New York, whether getting on a small plane, a helicopter, a commercial airplane or something else entirely, you assume a certain level of risk. Mechanical failures, weather-related complications and pilot errors are always possibilities, but according to one study involving the use of certain drugs by pilots, pilot errors caused by drug abuse should also be valid concerns for flyers.

According to CNN, in one study involving 6,677 pilot deaths that occurred between 1990 and 2012, almost 4 percent of pilots who died had illegal drugs in their systems at the time of their crashes. Additionally, 40 percent of all pilots who died had some sort of drug (illegal, prescription or over the counter) in their systems when they lost their lives, marking a 30-percent jump since 1990.

An overview of aviation safety programs

When people fly on commercial airlines in New York or across the country, they often assume that the aircraft they are traveling on has been deemed safe and is free from any defects that may put their lives in danger. Yet how exactly are aircrafts proven to be safe and what types of checks and evaluations do they go through to ensure they do not pose a danger to passengers and pilots?

The Federal Aviation Administration has several programs and initiatives in place to protect passengers who fly on commercial aircraft throughout the United States. The Aviation Safety Action Program is just one of these programs with the goal of preventing incidents and accidents. ASAP encourages employees to report certain safety issues and concerns, and the program looks into these concerns and attempts to remedy any problems that may occur in the future.

What is strict product liability?

New York aviation accidents are rare for multiple reasons. For example, government organizations maintain strict oversight over aircraft builders, and these manufacturers are held responsible when they lapse in their duties to keep you safe during flights or provide you with clear warning communications. 

One of the mechanisms by which the law holds aviation engineering companies to account if you are injured is through product liability. This type of liability is conditional, meaning that factors such as pilot error or bad weather during your flight might release the manufacturer from a responsibility to pay damages.

"Doors off" flights banned in wake of deadly helicopter crash

The recent helicopter tragedy over New York's East River raised a multitude of questions about helicopter and flight safety, and the Federal Aviation Administration has enacted a new ban on "doors off" helicopter flights in its aftermath. At Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, we understand the risks raised by these and other dangerous and defective aircraft components, and we have helped many victims and family members of helicopter and plane crash victims seek appropriate recourse following accidents.

Per Wired.com, the FAA enacted the ban in an effort to help prevent similar tragedies linked to doors-off helicopters after five passengers lost their lives when they were unable to free themselves from their restraints following the crash. The pilot of the helicopter had a restraint with a quick-release feature, allowing him to free himself, while all passengers onboard had harnesses that lacked quick-release capabilities, ultimately resulting in their deaths.

Eurocopter AS350 involved in deadly East River crash

Most New York residents are familiar with helicopters, but few recognize the potential dangers involved. Fortunately, there are sections of aviation accident law that provide a way of dealing with the unexpected and often disastrous results of a failed helicopter tour. 

City residents along the East River witnessed the third helicopter crash in 11 years for chartered flight operator Liberty Helicopters. The aircraft in question was a Eurocopter AS350. Five passengers were killed, leaving the pilot as the sole survivor. This not the first time Liberty Helicopters has been involved in a fatal helicopter accident. It is also not the first time a Eurocopter AS350 was the faulty aircraft. 

Drones are popular, but are they safe?

In 2017, the Consumers Union wrote an open letter online to address the House Transportation Committee's aviation panel. The CU voiced concern over the increasing use of drones and the potential for injuries because of design defects. Whether you live in New York or in other parts of the U.S., you have likely noticed the growing popularity of drones among aviation fans. 

Since their use has become so trendy, the CU wanted to bring awareness to the risk for drones stalling in mid-air and dropping out of the sky. Any number of injuries could come from an incident like that, depending on where the drone fell. If it happened to land in an open field, well, there would not be much harm in that. If it crashed into a school playground with 100 elementary students - including your youngest - running around at recess, that would be another story altogether. The CU's concerns about risks are valid. 

How safe are helicopter tours?

If you are planning a dream vacation to New York City, the Grand Canyon, Hawaii or any of the other stunning destinations the USA has to offer, then helicopter tours might be a good choice for you. Helicopters are safer than you might expect, and they offer a unique set of opportunities for exploration. However, this mode of travel is not without risk, especially if you are visiting from abroad. 

In the National Transportation Safety Board data for helicopter crashes-- starting in 2006 and current to 2015-- you may find evidence of a relatively low frequency of fatal helicopter accidents. In fact, the rate hovered at around one fatal accident per 200,000 flight hours. These numbers indicate a safe mode of travel if you were to compare them to comparable options, such as fixed-wing charter planes. 

Errors commonly made by pilots

If you live in New York and frequently travel by plane, you may have concerns about just how safe it is to travel via aircraft, given that small and commercial plane crashes frequently make headlines. Given how far aircraft construction has come in recent years, a rising number of plane crashes have ties to pilot errors, rather than mechanical failures, so it is important that you, as a passenger, learn to recognize common pilot mistakes. At Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, we understand that catastrophic injuries and even death can result when pilots make errors, and we have helped many aircraft passengers and their families seek recourse after crashes.

Per PilotSafety.org, many pilot mistakes arise from similar circumstances, and many pilot errors are also easily avoidable. For example, one of the most common pilot errors that can endanger you and other passengers involves a pilot not getting a complete weather report before taking to the skies. Additionally, some pilots make errors because they fail to conduct a thorough preflight check. Typically, pilots reserve at least 10 minutes before taking off to inspect the aircraft, ensure adequate fuel and so on, but some pilots skip this critical step, exposing themselves and their aircrafts to potential dangers.

What the FAA has done to make sure air travel stays safe

New York residents may remember when a small plane crashed on the way to Florida in September of 2014. Last November, the U.S. News & World Report covered the release of the National Transportation and Safety Board's accident report for that crash. The report revealed the cause to be a design flaw that allowed an overheat switch to activate and cut off the air supply to the plane's cabin. Two occupants died in the accident.

Just before the NTSB's statement broke headlines, the Federal Aviation Authority had released a report of its own. Acknowledging the U.S. has the "largest and most diverse General Aviation community in the world," the FAA announced results of a drive to "put the right technologies, regulations, and education initiatives in place to improve safety."

How is an airplane's lifespan determined?

As with any heavy machinery, an airplane is not designed to last forever, but how do New York airlines decide when a plane is no longer safe to fly? The lifespan of an airplane, according to Prime Industries Inc., is not a cut and dry thing. It requires many factors to be considered before an airplane is deemed too old to fly.

The main point used in determining the safety of a plane is called pressurization cycles. This is basically the flight hours of the plane. In other words, the plane's age is not as important as how many times it has flown. One cycle includes taking off, flying and landing. It does not matter if the plane flew a short or long flight. The focus is on the number of cycles. 

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