Airplane Safety Improvements Years After a Deadly Crash Still Not Enough

November 30, 2012

plane_crash.jpgMore than a decade after a fatal plane crash, improvements are finally being made to enhance the safety of airline equipment. However, our airplane accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins are concerned that many experts still say these improvements are not enough.

As USA Today is reporting, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered aircraft manufacturer Airbus to upgrade the rudder systems on more than 200 of its planes following a deadly crash in 2001. Excessive pressure on the rudder was found to be the cause of the crash that took the lives of all 260 passengers aboard the plane. Still, safety experts are wondering why there was such a delay, and industry representatives are questioning the solution.

The FAA regulation is being finalized almost 11 years after American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Queens, NY. The accident happened shortly after the plane took off from New York's JFK airport, when its tail came apart. The crash claimed not only the lives of all on board the Airbus A300-605R, but also that of five people who were on the ground.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the Airbus' tail fin - the vertical stabilizer - came apart because the pilot applied too much pressure on the rudder by turning it from side to side while he fishtailed behind another plane. Six other flights suffered issues with rudder movement that resulted in too much stress on the tails but without disastrous consequences.

FAA collaborated with counterparts at Airbus and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to fix a flashing light and sound in the cockpit to warn pilots when there is too much rudder movement on A310 and A300 planes.

According to FAA approximations, the upgrade will amount to a $72,720 to $107,720 expenditure per plane. The FAA also approved another option for the rudder problem, a more expensive option - to install equipment that restricts movement of the rudder pedal (which would be $198,500 per plane).

Though Airbus cautioned that there was no practical way to design and fix the pedal equipment within the FAA's 4 year deadline, they did succeed in securing FAA certification for their warning system earlier this year.

A Dallas aviation lawyer and former six-year Navy pilot said that the airlines had to settle on either the pedal device which is safer, or the warning light which involves just one third the expenditure of the former.

Delivery giants Fedex and UPS who are also Airbus' bigger customers intend to act in accordance with the rule by introducing the warning lights. However, they also feel that the rule was not necessary.

A Fedex spokesperson revealed that the company was still of the opinion that the issue of correct control of the rudder to deal with wake turbulence is best tackled by way of pilot education and training.

UPS was initially worried about the expenditure associated with installing pedal equipment. However, the company admitted it was possible to install a flashing light and the associated software within the 4-year time limit.

The plane was not considered to be at fault for the crash because the NTSB found that stress on the tail was close to twice the amount it was certified to tolerate. In addition, Airbus had cautioned against excessive rudder movement that could cause structural failure.

If your loved one died in an unfortunate plane crash, you may be entitled to compensation. An airplane accident attorney can investigate the cause of the crash and identify the parties responsible for your suffering.