View Full Version : Bell Helicopter settles suit over Tail Rotor Failure

29th Jun 2006, 17:23
Familes of helicopter crash settle with manufacturer over 1998 crash

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A settlement was reached Tuesday between the widows of three firefighters who were killed in a helicopter crash and an aircraft parts manufacturer.

A civil trial had been ongoing for the past 11 days but ended abruptly when it was announced both sides had reached an agreement.

The terms of the deal were not released.

Ronald Goldman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

"I will only say that the case was resolved to the satisfaction of everyone," Goldman said.

The accident occurred in March 1998 when a Fire Department helicopter crashed in Griffith Park while airlifting an 11-year-old car accident victim. The girl, Norma Vides, died along with two paramedics, Michael Butler and Eric Reiner, and Michael McComb, a crewman.

The widows of the three firefighters - Maria Butler, Lisa Reiner and Lorene McComb - claimed in their lawsuit that a defective helicopter part and manufacturer fraud caused the crash. The girl's family were not plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

A National Transportation Safety Board report found the crash was likely caused by a fatigue fracture in a tail rotor yoke assembly, which caused the rotor to separate from the aircraft in flight.

The 22-year-old Bell 205A-1 helicopter, manufactured by Bell Textron, Inc., lost its two tail rotor blades and a portion of the tail rotor gearbox just before it crashed.

The report also said the two paramedics who died were not provided with helmets, tether straps or other safety devices that would have protected the crew and Vides.

Goldman told jurors during opening statements that the tail rotor yoke failed because of metal fatigue from the stress of normal flying.

Bell Textron officials knew the yoke had "dangerous properties," but covered it up and committed fraud, Goldman said.

However, the lawyer for Bell Textron, Stephen Brunk, told jurors the fire department's failure to tie the rotor blades down led to a crack in the yoke.

"It is very important that that be done," Brunk said. The yokes, if properly maintained, "have infinite fatigue life."

Since the crash, shoulder restraints and helmets have been purchased and provided for all the department's aircraft.

30th Jun 2006, 08:42
At the point where they settle but do not disclose details, you know Bell are covering up.

Cyclic Hotline
30th Jun 2006, 16:21
NTSB accident report (http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?ev_id=20001211X09703&ntsbno=LAX98GA127&akey=1)

I am not sure that I understand what Bell could be covering up?

All this was, is the civil trial to determine the damages to be paid to those families who had family members killed in the accident. The trial is to determine the responsibility, liability and the amount of compensation to be offered.

The only part of the agreement that was not disclosed, is the terms of the settlement, a pretty normal procedure in lawsuits of this nature.

Still doesn't bring back the ones that are dead though.

1st Jul 2006, 06:36
If you were Bell and could prove the TR hub wasn't faulty, would you settle?

1st Jul 2006, 11:22
Actually crab, they probably would. If a full blown lawsuit defence was going to set them back 10 million, but they could settle out of court for 5 million, then they'll probably settle out of court. Those in the know will realise that it isn't really an admittance of guilt by the manufacturer, and customer sales won't be affected at all. Sometimes defending your innocence just isn't cost effective.

2nd Jul 2006, 02:38
What does tying the rotor down has to do with tail rotor fatigue?

2nd Jul 2006, 02:50
Ever watch a stationary tail rotor beat and bang during gusty winds blowing....say like those caused by another 205/212 hovering less than 75 feet away? That is why one inspects the blades, hub, and yoke on preflight inspections.

2nd Jul 2006, 02:53
You are talking about tieing a tail rotor.... Sorry i though they mented main rotor..

Queston, would you tie it down in a bell 206?

3rd Jul 2006, 07:50
KL, a simple "bungy" cord around the the tail-rotor, pulling it against the tail boom works well on the 206. Good idea when leaving it overnight or on a windy day.

3rd Jul 2006, 10:58
KL, a simple "bungy" cord around the the tail-rotor, pulling it against the tail boom works well on the 206. Good idea when leaving it overnight or on a windy day.

or anything that teeters freely.

Taff Missed
3rd Jul 2006, 16:34
The other advantage of a bungee is that it will break before doing any damage to the drive train when you forget to take it off!


4th Jul 2006, 12:29
For those ppruners who think settling a law suit is an admission of "guilt" or a "coverup" please try to see the situation the way the company sees it (because their shareholders need it to be seen that way). Companies are in business, and the realities of what might happen drive their decisions.
A law suit is a contest in court that has three possible outcomes: You win, you lose or you settle. Remember that the opposition will use every trick possible to win, because they will be paid millions if they win. They hire "experts" who will say anything, literally anything, because they are paid to do so. The jury sometimes cannot understand the issues, so they gauge the decision on the personalities and believability of the lawyers and experts, so it is too often almost a coin toss that determines who wins. The stakes are huge, with a loss meaning perhaps millions, while a settlement might mean 20% of that. Settling a tough case is often the best way to control the loss, even if there is no blame, but the case "looks" too bad to chance a victory. Settlement is often the best way to control a loss if the company is wrong, and wants to make the case go away.

I know of one helicopter company that as a policy fights all suits that have no merit (and settles all suits that have merit), because its reputation is at stake, but that company's insurance company will settle when it makes business sense to do so. And the insurance company calls the shots, because they have shareholders, too.

TukTuk BoomBoom
9th Jul 2006, 11:22
On the 206 they have a thin rubber bumper between the yoke and the flap stop they dont on the 212/412 and there is a daily inspection on the flap stop for deflection.
Ive seen 206s at Bell in texas sitting out in the wind with the main and tail rotor flapping around like crazy.
Youd think theyd want to get it right at the factory.
Yeah its pretty common to settle out of court in these cases otherwise you can end up like turbomeca a few years ago that lost a lawsuit on a Astar crash and resulted in the biggest lawsuit fine ever something like 200 million dollars, reduced after appeal.
Thats why your aircraft and parts cost so much, bullshit US litigation rules (just ask cessna)

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