In February, two separate personal plane crashes led to three fatalities. The most recent crash occurred on February 21. Dr. John Serocki, 61, embarked on a solo flight in a single-engine Cirrus SR22T from Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport. His planecrashed shortly after takeoff, and he passed away at the scene. No one on the ground was injured. It was not immediately clear why the crash occurred, though it is possible that the engine failed.
Earlier that month, on February 6, a single-engine Cessna 182Tcrashed after taking off from Gillespie Field. The plane, carrying John and Cherril Longhurst, 70 and 71, respectively, crashed about one mile from the runway.
Both crashes are being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If a plane crash investigation determines that the cause of the crash was something other than pilot error, then the surviving family members may have a legal claim against the responsible party.
William Sachs Goldman, 38, passed away in July after his smallpersonal aircraft crashed for an unknown reason. Goldman was an assistant professor of international studies at the University of San Francisco. He was the son of Richard Goldman and Susan Sachs Goldman, and the grandson of well-known philanthropists Richard N. and Rhoda Goldman, who established the Goldman Environmental Prize. As a member of a philanthropic family, Goldman and his wife were on numerous institution’s boards.
Small Plane Accident to be Investigated
Goldman was one of four passengers in the single-engine Cirrus SR22 plane, which crashed in a field in Schell Vista, southwest of Sonoma Skypark Airport. Goldman’s two minor children, George and Marie, and their caretaker, Valeria Anselmi, were the other passengers. They were all taken to local hospitals to treat their serious injuries.
Armed with recent holiday acquisitions, increasing numbers of amateur enthusiasts are excited to explore the California skies. Today, we return to an issue we looked at in early December: drone accidents involving commercial, recreational, and other non-military operations. First, we look at a recent news report on the growing trend of drone safety classes and the ever-evolving network of drone laws and regulations, including rules that have taken effect since our first drone injury report. We also look at just a few of the drone accidents reported in recent months, accidents that are probably just the tip of the iceberg as drone shift from weapons of war to everyday tools and common toys. Our Northern California drone accident lawyer is committed to staying informed about the issues and laws so that we can help people injured by drones in Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and elsewhere in our region.
Classes and Regulations Seek to Prevent Drone Accidents
Over the weekend, The Oakland Tribune reported on the new wave of classes available for people interested in flying drones (also called “unmanned aircraft systems” or “UAS”). Recently, 30 enthusiasts of all ages gathered at Concord’s Buchanan Field to learn about UAS safety from a retired flight instructor with more than 80 hours of drone experience. Although the class focused on property damage, we don’t doubt that the instruction can help students avoid injury-causing accidents as well.
One of the most controversial tools used by the military and domestic government authorities has become the season’s most in-demand gift. Drones are becoming more powerful and more accessible, with hobbyists of all ages taking the controls. Drones are fascinating, but drone injuries are a very real danger. From interfering with aircraft to injuring an operator or a bystander, drone accidents happen and our Northern California drone injury lawyer is prepared to use a variety of legal theories to advocate for those injured by drones in San Francisco and the surrounding regions.
Drone Nearly Collides with CHP Helicopter Over Martinez, CA
A close call in our area last weekend highlights a potential safety threat from privately operated drones and has the California Highway Patrol (“CHP”) urging operators to take care when flying the devices. According to ABC7, on Saturday night a CHP helicopter was working with Martinez police and flying above Highway 4 when they spotted a small red light. The light turned out to be a drone flying at nearly the same altitude as the helicopter, approximately 800 feet, despite the Federal Aviation Administration’s (“FAA”) recommendation that drones remain under 400 feet. Luckily, the CHP pilots, travelling nearly 100mph, spotted the drone in time and banked allowing the drone to fly by the helicopter. CHP officials believe they have identified the drone’s operator and have turned the incident over to the FAA to determine an appropriate response.
When people think of an aviation accident (at least people who didn’t see this post’s title or read/experience the news story that inspired it!), a midair disaster often comes to mind. However, a surprising number of plane crashes occur on the ground. Whether it is a collision between two planes near the terminal, a plane hitting an object while taxiing, or a runway incident as frightening as a failed landing attempt, our Oakland airplane accident attorney is ready to help people injured in ground aviation accidents.
Sideswipe-Style Crash Between Airplanes Damages Wing on 737
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that two aircraft collided on Sunday night at Oakland International Airport. A Southwest Airlines flight was leaving the gate in preparation for a short flight to Orange County when the end of its wing brushed against the wing of another Southwest plane. The sideswipe-style collision damaged the top of a wing tip on the departing plane, a Boeing 737. A passenger told reporters that travelers felt a sudden jolt, one that most passengers seemed to dismiss. He says he noticed the wing tip cracked and fell off while the plane continued to move, leading him to notify a flight attendant out of concern that the damage had not been noticed.
Some activities are reserved for the thrill-seekers among us. These activities carry a certain level of danger, but the danger can be exponentially increased by the negligent acts of a company or individual. While hang-gliding intimidates most of us, fans call it an almost spiritual experience. Hang-gliding accidents are an understood risk, but it is unacceptable for this risk to be elevated by negligent or wrongful acts. Even in the riskiest of activities, victims are not without recourse. If a Northern California hang-gliding participant in hurt or killed because of someone else’s negligence, our San Francisco recreational injury law firm is here to help.
Sunday’s Hang-Gliding Fatality in San Francisco Part of a Tragic Trend
On Sunday afternoon, a hang-gliding accident in San Francisco claimed the life of a 69-year-old man. Fox40 reports that the accident occurred in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The glider appears to have crashed into a cliff just 30 feet below the Fort Funston launch pad. An early statement from the National Park service suggests the crash may have been caused by a mechanical failure.
While twenty months have passed since the tragedy, the image of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed on a runway at San Francisco International Airport (“SFO”) is still fresh in our minds at the Brod Law Firm. For the victims and their families, those moments will never be forgotten. Lawsuits are never a perfect answer; they cannot undo the harm done. Still, monetary compensation can be critical following an injury, helping the victims deal with the financial, physical, and even emotional (i.e. money for counseling, funds to live on if the victim can no longer work because of psychological scars) damage. By their very nature, plane accidents often involve many victims with similar, though never identical, stories. For this reason, our San Francisco airplane injury law firm believes that plane crash class actions can be a useful tool for victims and their families. As with other civil actions, meritorious claims filed as a class action often result in settlements, although settlement is a bit more complex in class action cases.
Seventy-Two Injured Plaintiffs Settle Flight 214 Claims As a report in this week’s Oakland Tribune recalls, Flight 214 crashed on July 6, 2013 as it prepared to land at SFO following a flight from South Korea. The plane collided with the seawall at the end of the runway, killing three and injuring nearly 200. Investigators concluded pilot error was to blame and suggested the setup of the 777’s flight control systems was an additional factor.
On Tuesday, a group of 72 passengers settled a class action lawsuit against Asiana Airlines, Boeing, and Air Cruisers Company which manufactured the plane’s evacuation slides. The class of plaintiffs, each of whom received an award commensurate with their injuries, included victims whose injuries had stabilized and were generally less severe than plaintiffs involved in other pending suits.
Some people will tell you that luck comes in threes; stub your toe, trip over your kid’s skateboard, and you best be on high alert. While we can’t vouch for that particular sentiment, it does seem like there have been a number of serious airplane accidents in the recent past, many of which we’ve discussed in these pages. This prompts our San Francisco airplane accident attorney to take a look at the numbers.
Pilot Locked Out of Cockpit on Delta Flight
Before getting to the stats, there’s one particular incident that made headlines not for the outcome but for the seeming absurdity of its situation. On Thursday, as Good Morning America reported, a Delta Air Lines plane travelling from Minneapolis to Las Vegas made an emergency landing after the pilot became locked out of the MD-90’s cockpit. Apparently, the pilot had left the cockpit to use the restroom but the door malfunction when he tried to return to the helm. A piece of string was later deemed the culprit. Passengers say the pilot calmly explained the situation to all onboard. The First Officer successfully landed the plane to a round of applause. Not one of the 168 people on board suffered injury. The successful resolution turned what could have been a tragedy into an amusing anecdote. The crew did alert the tower and there were ground crews ready to help had a problem occurred.
Five months ago, few Americans had heard of Malaysia Airlines. Now, of course, they’ve held the headlines for months with two flights ending in tragedy in a just a short time. Particularly after this most recent tragedy, our Northern California aviation accident law firm has heard from many community members who are curious about the legal rights of families in the case of similar aviation tragedies.
Remembering the Victims of Flight 17
We could cite any of hundreds of news reports to provide a brief summary of the Flight 17 story, but we were drawn to a report from CNN that looks at a small sample of the lives lost in this tragedy. As CNN explains, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over the Ukraine on Thursday July 17, 2014. There were 298 people aboard the passenger flight from the Netherlands to Malaysia. The victims included 193 Dutch citizens, a total that includes the sole American victim who had dual citizenship, and 43 Malaysians. A champion rower, an AIDS researcher, restaurateurs, a nun, students, and successful businesspeople were among those lost. We encourage readers to take a look at the faces and brief biographies of some of the victims; we do not want the victims’ stories to be lost amidst the rest of the coverage.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s much-anticipated report on the ill-fated Asiana Airlines plane that crashed at San Francisco International Airport last year was released on Tuesday, and the NTSB focused its attention on what it considered the crew’s excessive reliance on automated flight controls they did not understand as well as the crew’s mismanagement of the plane’s landing. And San Francisco airplane accident attorney Gregory J. Brod would point out that the NTSB panel findings were fairly specific in determining what went wrong, why and who was largely to blame.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the NTSB found that the three-member crew of the Asiana Airlines ultra-modern Boeing 777 that crashed upon landing, broke apart and caught fire at SFO on July 6 did not adequately understand the plane’s systems and “over-relied on automated systems that they did not full understand.” As a result of the crash, the worse ever at SFO, three passengers died and nearly 200 were injured when the plane hit a seawall short of the runway.
Although an SFO glide slope indicator, which guides planes on a 3-degree descent path to the runway, was not functioning at the time of the crash, the NTSB found that not to be a contributing factor to the tragedy. Instead, the NTSB faulted the crew of Asiana Flight 214 for flying the craft at 118 mph when it slammed into the seawall, significantly slower than the recommended speed of 157 mph for a landing. In addition, the crew missed several opportunities to realize that they were losing too much speed as the jet descended below 500 feet. By the time the crew realized what was happening it was too late to abort the landing.
Other contributing factors to the crash, according to the NTSB, were the likelihood that the crew was fatigued at the end of a cross-Pacific journey from South Korea and that they were distracted by cockpit duties during the airplane’s descent into SFO, both of which would have compromised the crew’s ability to recognize that the jet was descending too rapidly and losing speed.
Tellingly, the mistakes committed by the pilots were not due to any incompetence, said NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt, but rather “because of an expectation that the autopilot auto throttle system would do something the airplane was not designed to do.”
Sumwalt went on to say that training for using the automated throttle system of the Boeing 777 was insufficient.
As a result of its findings, the NTSB recommended that Boeing develop better training manuals and procedures for using its automated throttle controls and that Asiana improve its training methods and afford its pilots more manual flight instruction to better equip them to deal with any confusion caused by automation.
Asiana officials have attempted to shift the blame to Boeing for its seemingly vexing automation systems, but the aircraft manufacturer has strongly defended its plane and received some validation from the NTSB.
“This was a seasoned flight crew that misunderstood the flight controls they commanded,” said Christopher Hart, the NTSB’s acting chairman, at the conclusion of the board’s hearing. “We have learned that pilots must understand automation but not become over-reliant upon it. The pilots must always be the boss.”
The NTSB probe concluded that “flight crew mismanagement” was the probable cause of the accident, but also found that there were deficiencies in training, procedure and radio communications among emergency crews that hampered the overall ground response to the crash. One of the three fatalities occurred when a 16-year-old passenger was run over by two responding San Francisco Fire Department fire rigs during the post-crash confusion, an earlier San Mateo County Coroner’s Office report had concluded. Continue Reading