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U.S. Aviation Accidents Law Blog

Can fatigue in materials cause aircraft failure?

Airplanes are responsible for safely transporting you and your family through the air and to your destination.  As planes travel over time, however, different stresses and pressure can cause the composite structures to crack or fatigue. In fact, fatigue cracks are one of the most common causes of structural failure in airplanes. If an airplane is not properly inspected and maintained, structure fatigue can cause serious problems, including accidents, injuries and even death of innocent passengers.

According to the Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, fatigue can first be noticed when a crack is detected. These stress cracks can be caused by defects in the material or design flaws, and if not caught in the early stages, they may grow to become a serious problem. The fatigue cracks will continue to worsen until suddenly, a rupture or system failure will occur. This occurs when the crack gets too big for the material to withhold the stress and pressure.

Is that international charter flight safe?

Whether you book your international charter flight through a cruise line, tour operator or a company in a foreign country, you may not want to take the airline's safety for granted. According to The New York Times, not every country provides the same aviation oversight that the United States does.

You don't have to trust blindly, though. Here are some tips for checking out an air charter company.

Woman killed in commercial airplane crash

When people board a flight, they should feel rest assured that the airplane they are entering has been fully maintained and is safe for travel. However, mistakes made in the upkeep of the plane or system failure could lead to a catastrophic event. Ultimately, the airline responsible for taking care of the airplanes is to blame for any accidents, injuries or deaths that are caused as a result of poor equipment maintenance.

A woman as killed in April when she was partially ejected from a shattered window of a 737 plane. Eight other passengers aboard the plane, as well as the deceased woman's husband have submitted a claim suing Southwest Airlines for physiological and emotional injuries they received due to the fatal and tragic airplane accident.

Aircraft design defects - a case and a definition

In the Fall of 2017, New Yorkers interested in aviation safety may have been paying attention to the ruling in a case of aircraft design defects. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that the President of Aerospec, Inc. received a sentence of two years' imprisonment and three years supervised release. 

The case is important because it brings to light the issue of defective airplane parts and its impact on the aviation industry. While this case revolved around components sold to the military, defective parts are dangerous for all the world's aircraft.

Aircraft design defects - the standards that matter most

If the skies could speak, they might reveal a galaxy of secrets from aviation history. From the earliest design flaws in the Christmas Bullet - an early 1900's plane intended to have flapping wings - to the malfunctions engineers say caused recent engine failures in Boeing aircraft, structural defects create serious problems for the airline industry. Fatal plane crashes in New York and around the world leave family members to question who has the final say when design defects have catastrophic outcomes.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has similar questions, not only when an aircraft goes down but also anytime members and their colleagues take one up. In 2016, the AOPA made headlines when asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case involving aviation products liability.

Are small planes actually safe?

If you are a typical New Yorker, commercial airline flights are a normal part of your life. If you work for one of the many companies that own a private jet or helicopter, you likely are well acquainted with corporate business flights, too. You may even have friends who own their own private plane or own one yourself. Has it ever occurred to you to wonder if these small planes are safe?

Live Science reports that while small planes are not inherently dangerous, when it comes to the possibility of having an accident, taking a flight in one is about 19 times more dangerous than taking a ride in your car. While over 30,000 people die in traffic accidents each year as compared to 400 who die in small plane accidents, these raw numbers mean virtually nothing. That is because the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency tasked with keeping statistics on both vehicle and plane accidents, measures vehicle accidents by the number of miles traveled, whereas it measures plane accidents by every 100,000 hours flown. Thus the raw fatality numbers are an apples versus oranges comparison.

Do you need to worry about objects falling from planes?

In the television show "Dead Like Me," the main character was killed by a toilet seat falling from a commercial airplane. This is certainly a frightening prospect, and you might worry if something similar could happen to you. After all, countless planes fly over New York every day. It might seem only a matter of time until something falls from a plane and lands on someone.

Claims by Air & Space Smithsonian might not do much to reassure you. According to reports, debris falls from aircraft regularly. This occurs so often, in fact, that those in aviation call the phenomenon TFOA, or "things falling off aircraft." One cited example included a fatal airplane accident in Paris, France, in 2000. Reportedly, an engine cowl wear strip detached itself from the plane as it took off, causing the plane to crash shortly afterward.

Aviation accidents and strict liability

At Kreindler & Kreindler, LLP, in New York, we understand that a plane crash may be the type of accident you most fear. Whether the crash involves a sightseeing helicopter, a private plane or a huge commercial jet, your life is at stake in any kind of aviation accident.

While pilot error often contributes to an aviation accident, a failure or malfunction of the plane's mechanical or electrical systems sometimes causes it to behave in dangerous ways. In addition, one or more of the plane's component parts can fail or malfunction, causing or contributing to the crash. When such is the case, FindLaw explains that the doctrine of strict liability holds the plane's manufacturer and/or the manufacturer of a failed or malfunctioning part legally responsible for any injuries or deaths suffered by the crew or passengers.

Pilot in deadly crash that killed 5 had fentanyl in system

Boarding a helicopter in New York or another part of the United States poses inevitable risks, but pilots who abuse substances before getting behind helicopter controls considerably amplify these risks. A recent Albuquerque, New Mexico, helicopter crash offered possible evidence of this, as an autopsy report that followed the fatal crash revealed the pilot had fentanyl in his system at the time the incident occurred.

Per CBS News, the pilot in the crash that killed five (including the pilot) had a powerful opioid pain killer in his system when his aircraft went down, though it is unclear exactly why he was using the prescription medication. While it is also unclear, to date, exactly how much fentanyl the pilot had in his system, he was a highly experienced pilot, suggesting inexperience may not have been a factor. Additionally, skies were clear the night of the flight, suggesting that the cause of the incident was probably not weather-related.

Why did a major airline ignore its mechanics' concerns?

When you board a commercial aircraft in New York, you probably do not ask yourself the last time the plane underwent inspection. Why? Chances are, you trust that the airline itself has a team of mechanics in place who are making sure the aircraft is safe for flight. Regrettably, however, it appears that at least one major airline is questioning its mechanics when they report issues and discouraging them from reporting identified problems.

According to NBC 5 KXAS, the Federal Aviation Administration believes there is a "broken safety culture" within one of the nation's leading airlines, and that a widespread relaxing of standards within the company is endangering those who fly with it. Some mechanics who worked for the airline, which recently made headlines when a woman lost her life after an incident involving the plane's window, reported they were subject to criticism and questioning, rather than praise, for bringing mechanical problems to their higher-up's attention.

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