March is shaping up to be a rather expensive month for air carriers American and Northwest.
In a somewhat surprising conclusion to a study conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was recently announced that airplanes equipped with 'glass cockpits', or digitized flight data displays, have not proven to be any safer than planes that operate with conventional, non-digital instrumentation.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Monday that a $2.5 Million fine was being proposed against American Eagle Airlines for operating a multitude of flights with erroneous cargo weight data.
The December 22, 2009 crash of American Airlines Flight 331 at Kingston, Jamaica's Norman Manley International Airport ended a year wrought with many highly publicized - and several devastatingly tragic - aviation disasters. Flight 331, which originated in Miami, Florida, crash landed in bad weather and skidded off the runway, crossed a road and came to rest on a beach only feet away from the Caribbean Sea. The impacts cracked apart the airplane's fuselage and destroyed the landing gear while heavy rain battered the wreckage and passengers. All 154 people on board survived the crash, but more than half of them suffered injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to broken bones.
On December 21, 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation, ("DOT"), announced a new rule that imposes a three hour limit on the amount of time an airline can keep a passenger on board a domestic flight that has been delayed on the tarmac. Exceptions exist within the rule for concerns of safety or security, or if the air traffic control advises the pilot that a return to the gate would disrupt the operations of the airport.
A jury in Lexington, Kentucky, awarded $7.1 Million to the family of a 39-year-old man killed when Comair Flight 5191 took off from the wrong runway at Lexington's Blue Grass Airport on August 27, 2006. After a four-day trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, the jury of eight returned the verdict in favor of the estate and daughters of Bryan Keith Woodward, who was en route from a business trip to his Louisiana home that morning. The pilots of Comair Flight 5191 took off from a runway too short for a commercial jet, and in the early morning hours of August 27, the airplane crashed and caught fire not far from the runway shortly after takeoff, killing forty-nine people on board. This case was tried by the aviation attorneys at Rapoport Law Offices, P.C. including lead trail lawyer David Rapoport, Paul Richter and Michael Teich.
Aviation safety experts, including the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), have been calling for image recorders in airline cockpits for years. In fact, the NTSB includes this recommendation on its "Most Wanted List" of safety improvements. In the wake of the recent Northwest Airlines incident--in which the pilots of a flight bound for Minneapolis inexplicably overflew their destination airport--the utility and safety benefits of such a requirement are clearly apparent. If this device had been installed in the cockpit of the Northwest flight, the mystery of what went on in that cockpit would now be solved. Instead, we are left to wonder how a flight crew missed a turn by nearly 150 miles, and further why the pilots failed to respond to air traffic control communications for an amount of time so long that the aircraft could have been shot down. If those pilots fell asleep at the controls in a cockpit equipped with a video recorder, a picture would have been worth a thousand words.
Comair plaintiff Jamie Hebert could likely be the first person to litigate a loss of consortium claim in the state of Kentucky.
On October 9, 2009, United States District Court Judge Karl S. Forrester issued an order reinstating the loss of spousal consortium claim of Jamie Hebert, the last surviving spouse with a wrongful death claim against Comair for the August 27, 2006 crash of Comair Flight 5191. Ms. Hebert's husband, Bryan Keith Woodward, was killed when Flight 5191 crashed shortly after takeoff from Lexington, Kentucky.
On October 1, 2009 the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a ruling granting a surviving spouse the right to sue for loss of consortium damages in a wrongful death case following the death of their spouse, an issue thrust into the spotlight by the litigation surrounding the August, 2006 crash of Comair Flight 5191 at Lexington's Bluegrass Airport. Before this ruling was issued, Kentucky was one of only four states that didn't allow spouses to sue for these damages. Prior to this ruling, Kentucky allowed for the recovery of loss of consortium damages for a spouse of someone who was injured, but not someone who was wrongfully killed- a notion that Justice Noble, speaking for a unanimous Kentucky Supreme Court, wrote "defies common sense."