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Investigating a Small Plane Crash

Last month, Florida news outlets reported on several small plane crashes throughout the state. These serious accidents sometimes caused extensive injury and loss of life for those on board and a significant danger for bystanders on the ground. When large passenger plane accidents occur, victims automatically look to the airline for answers and compensation. But with small privately owned planes, the answers may not be so cut and dry.

One NBC new affiliate is covering a recently released finding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regarding a crash that took place at the municipal airport in Palatka, Florida. According to the official investigation, pilot error was the cause of the accident that resulted in minor injuries. A separate Lake Wales crash reportedly resulted in the death of a flight student and severe injuries to an instructor. A China Airlines trainee was in critical condition for a week before succumbing to his injuries. The cause of the crash is reportedly still under investigation.

Investigation of Plane Crashes

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency, completely separate from the Federal Aviation Administration. One of its major responsibilities is to investigate and report on the causes of aviation accidents across the country. According to the NTSB website, the flow of the investigation generally goes as follows:

  • “Go Team” initially responds. Depending on the size of the incident, this team may include as few as three participants or more than a dozen. The leader of the team is called the Investigator in Charge, and each team member specializes in some aspect of the investigations.
  • The Go Team investigates various aspects, including:

o   Structure of the aircraft;

o   Flight and crew operational history;

o   Air traffic control services before and during the accident;

o   Weather conditions which may have impacted the flight; and

o   Performance of the pilot and crewmembers.

  • NTSB officials remain at the scene until an adequate investigation is completed.
  • The investigation may continue away from the accident scene, with public hearings to collect sworn testimony from witness.
  • The Board meets in Washington DC to review the findings and make an official determination about the cause of the accident.

Possible Sources of Liability

An NTSB report can prove challenging to analyze for the purpose of taking legal action. Though an experienced attorney will consider the findings of the NTSB accident report, he may also call for an independent investigation of the accident, due to the various possible causes, including:

  • Mechanical Failures – It is the duty of the aircraft owner to properly maintain the plane and ensure that any maintenance work is done in a complete and accurate manner. When this duty is not met, the owner may be held liable for injuries and damages, along with any entities who contributed to the maintenance of the plane.
  • Pilot Mistakes – it is the duty of the pilot to operate the aircraft in a manner that reasonably secures passengers and bystanders from harm. If the pilot fails to meet the duty, a court may find him liable for resulting injuries and damages.
  • Poorly Designed Aircraft – The flight failure may stem from a problem with the design of the aircraft, which can also lead to mechanical errors.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an aircraft accident, call Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group at (813) 803-6518 for a free consultation. Don’t let wasted time compromise your crash investigation. Contact us today.

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