View Full Version : how to take legal action (aviation content alert!)

1st Jan 2018, 13:37
For the second time in 12 months my aircraft is grounded because of problems with some repair work carried out by the UK dealer for the type (not a Rans!). Upon informing this dealer his immediate response was to email the LAA and accuse me of damaging my own aircraft to claim compensation. Since then, nothing. The LAA responded appropriately by sending their inspector of inspectors to inspect the problem areas and confirm that their inspector had made the correct decision. He had. The evidence is clear to see. Missing rivets are missing rivets, a lack of tooling or witness marks around the holes shows that there has never been rivets installed in a fuselage structural member installed, by the dealer, during the repair.

Other faults found since the repair work and related to it are;

a 5 inch gouge in the side window caused by slipping off with a drill while removing rivets to take glazing out to allow removal/replacement of rear fuselage structural member.

paintwork with runs, insufficient coverage and flaking off areas.

a loose joint in the wing leading edge sheeted area.

The repairer response to all of these has been "a shrug of the shoulders". He has admitted to the LAA that at the time of the repair work he had "been quite ill and had lost the use of one arm". This didn't stop him taking significant money from my insurance company.

The failed permit inspection which grounded the aircraft cost me a half day's pay, 25 miles of driving and 128. The LAA visit cost me a further half day's pay and another 25 miles driving. Every month the knock on costs of hangarage and insurance cover adds another 240 to my cost of not being able to fly the aircraft. I hate to think what the overall bill will come to if I have to employ someone else to sort out the various problems.

I don't know how to proceed from this point. If I get the aircraft repaired I destroy the evidence of poor workmanship. If I take him to court first the costs will be difficult to determine.

Please help.

1st Jan 2018, 14:48
Well here is my experience in similar but not identical circumstances.
I was in dispute with aircraft repair company and refused to pay.
They sued me in court and I defended, hiring an expert witness.
Everyone was bound by the court findings.

1st Jan 2018, 15:02
Further to write the opinion that if you want to fly the aircraft any time soon you have to concentrate on the work required to make airworthy and ........treat the problem of costs recovery and compensation for the mistakes to date as an entirely separate task with an indefinite timescale.

1st Jan 2018, 15:09
The evidence of poor workmanship is present at this time and should be captured by a professional expert for use in courts later, if necessary.

So like others said, maintain the use of the airplane by making it airworthy soonest as to not do so is probably not going to be admitable in a later lawsuit.

1st Jan 2018, 15:10
If I get the aircraft repaired I destroy the evidence of poor workmanship. If I take him to court first the costs will be difficult to determine.You know we have these things called cameras and such these days? I'm sure you can document the errors sufficiently - after all, if it procedes to court you're not going to drag the aircraft into the court room, are you?

1st Jan 2018, 15:29
The only realistic "independent" authority here is the LAA, so you are stuck with what they will and will not do to support you, as a member. My opinion of them isn't great, but if they will provide you with what amounts to expert evidence and testimony, in the form of their senior inspector's report plus photos that they verify as being a true record of the state of the aircraft, then I think your best course of action is to get the aircraft fixed and flying, then take action against the individual who did the defective work in slow time.

If I'm honest, I doubt you'll get much back through the court, as if you use the small claims track in the county court there are limits on what you can claim for, and some of your losses would not be admissible as a part of the claim, I suspect.

As this is not a certified aircraft, then you don't have many other options open to you, short of a full blown county court case, which would cost you an arm and a leg up front, with no guarantee that you'd get your costs back even if you won. You could try using the sales of goods and services legislation, arguing that the aircraft was not in a saleable condition as supplied, and therefore the onus is on the manufacturer to put it right. The snag here is that the law requires that you give the manufacturer every opportunity to rectify the defect BEFORE you step in and get repair work done. That could well keep you grounded for many months.

Have a read up on the current criteria for making a claim via the small claims track in the county court and see what you could and could not claim for, as I think that, if the LAA are prepared to let you have expert testimony that the aircraft was in this unsafe condition when manufactured then you have a reasonable chance of succeeding to get some money back. IIRC, you may well find that a fair bit of your out-of-pocket expenditure cannot be claimed using this method, though, including costs associated from using your own time to pursue the claim.

Finally, don't forget the power of social media and naming and shaming. You may well end up with a quicker and better settlement by threatening to go public on every aviation forum and social media outlet you can find. Small aircraft companies can't afford bad publicity, as most of them run on a shoe string anyway.

1st Jan 2018, 15:31
Returning the aircraft to flight requires further replacement parts, the dealer/repairer has sole UK sales rights and. I suspect, will not provide the parts either to me or anyone else working on my aircraft. The missing rivets go into another part of the structure which is still original but the holes in this part were completely mangled by the drilling out of the factory fitted rivets. Additionally, the holes do not line up, this may be due to the replaced part being badly aligned when it was fitted or it has moved since due to the stresses of flying the aircraft. The repairer flew it after it was repaired and I have flown it since, before the missing rivets were found during annual permit inspection. I could have someone reverse engineer the part but fear that this will cost more than the factory supplied part.

I have some photographs of the situation but will ask my inspector if he will properly document the issue.

1st Jan 2018, 15:58
Would your insurance company provide any support, since the repairer has in effect tried to defraud them by taking monies for inadequate/unaccomplished work?
Worth checking, maybe. They normally don't take lightly to that sort of thing.

1st Jan 2018, 16:38
I'm not clear about the position of the insurance company. Did they actually pay for the repair? If so they would not normally pay up until you as the insured had signed off the work as satisfactorily completed.

1st Jan 2018, 16:44
If this is a non-UK manufactured aircraft, is it a kit or a ready made aircraft?

If it's ready made, then I assume that the UK agent holds the appropriate authorisation, not the manufacturer, and that leaves you in an invidious position. Without support from the UK agent your aircraft can very easily remain grounded forever, as others have found to their cost.

Presumably the LAA have acted as the delegated authority by the CAA to oversee the certification of the manufacturer, which also puts them in the firing line, potentially, too.

These things get very, very messy, especially with small companies set up to assemble low volumes of light aircraft, that are actually manufactured outside the UK, with no oversight at all. I once visited a well-known UK agent who was allegedly "assembling" foreign made aircraft "kits" under LAA oversight, so they held all the paperwork as a "manufacturer". I was gobsmacked to find that the wing riveted alloy wing assemblies were being imported to the UK ready assembled, and because of the fact that the assemblies were closed, there was absolutely no way to know if they were correctly assembled and no paperwork at all from the manufacturer that was worth anything in terms of UK or EASA requirements.

Some sort of negotiated settlement is probably going to be the best long-term outcome, even if it does leave you out of pocket. The system here in the UK for the oversight of low volume "assemblers" of non-UK manufactured light aircraft is bonkers, as it leaves the customer with no recourse but to deal with the badly behaved UK agent, as it is they who hold all the paperwork, not the non-UK manufacturer.

1st Jan 2018, 17:58
I am struggling to remember the exact sequence of completion. The repairer, who is an LAA inspector, sent me the form for completion but said the aircraft could not be returned until it had been test flown. He assured me that the existing permit to fly would carry over despite the major repair work and once the form was signed he would assemble the aircraft and test fly it and then deliver it to a borrowed hangar at Otherton. The key would be under a stone by the hangar. To my eye the aircraft looked complete. I am not an airworthiness inspector. The repairer, having done the work, should have been aware of the places that needed checking before he flew the aircraft but clearly didn't look. He has sworn that the rivets were there when he pre-flighted and flew the aircraft but the evidence tells another story. I saw the slightly dodgy paint but decided to accept the aircraft back as I had been some four and a half months without it and needed to get some flying done. Dodgy paint doesn't ground an aircraft. The repair work was carried out at a workshop on a farm half way up the side of a Welsh mountain near to Bala. There is no hangar. The aircraft is dragged from the workshop, assembled and flown away. There is a serious down slope of ground which doubles as a runway and requires a VSTO followed by a swerve through a gap in a dry stone wall to depart from. There is no way back in that anyone would risk.

The structural issues only showed up much later. The loose joint in the much repaired wing didn't become apparent until a few flying hours later when the paint cracked along the overlap line. My original inspector didn't even see this. I pointed it out to him and he didn't seem concerned but suggested I just paint into the crack and carry on. On flexing the wing by pushing up and down by hand at the wingtip, movement across the joint could be felt by a finger resting on the crack line. At this point I decided to get a better inspector and briefed him to do a proper job because I was losing faith in the repair work. He did and the missing rivets were found.

The aircraft has flown less than 40 hours since the repair although it has been several years getting there. The poor state of the repairs doesn't inspire confidence so I have really done the bare minimum to keep my licence, taking any opportunity to fly other folks aircraft when I can.

1st Jan 2018, 18:39
Andrew, is this a kit built aircraft or a Type Approved aircraft?

The difference is very, very important.

If it's Type Approved, you are between a rock and a hard place, as if it was imported (say from Eastern Europe) to a UK Type Approved "manufacturer" (in reality this varies from true manufacturers to fraudulent companies that just assemble wholly untested or approved major assemblies, due the massive amount of cheating that goes on with some so-called UK manufacturers) then there are some real rogues out there. As mentioned earlier, I personally witnessed an extremely well known Type Approved "manufacturer", who was just cheating and assembling pre-manufactured major assemblies from Eastern Europe.

I was gobsmacked, TBH, as before seeing this with my own eyes I'd have trusted that manufacturer implicitly. All I can add is that the CAA surveyor looking after them was completely incompetent (no surprise there - the CAA are grossly incompetent (IMHO) when dealing with very light aircraft operated under a PtF. Basically they seriously lack the technical expertise needed to do the job, and rely far to much on both the "UK Manufacturer" being honest and the LAA doing a competent job (and my direct experience is that the LAA are like the curate's egg - good in parts).

1st Jan 2018, 18:59
It is an LAA permit to fly kit, built by me in 2010-11. Had I taken my original inspector with me when I went to Otherton to collect the aircraft he would most probably not have found the faults, as indeed he didn't for during several permit renewals. The new chap is on the ball but does take twice as long to do the permit inspection and costs twice as much.

How does the kit/homebuilt benefit the situation I find myself in?

1st Jan 2018, 19:14
Being a kit means that you are not as beholden to the UK agent. Anyone can make a part, get it approved by the LAA and fit it, so you don't HAVE to buy Type Approved spares from the UK agent.

It can be awkward, depending very much on the attitude of the LAA on the day, but legally you don't have to have anything approved or supplied by the kit manufacturer. As an example, I designed new wing struts for an LAA PtF kit aircraft I owned. These were not approved by the UK agent, in fact had nothing to do with them, nevertheless the LAA (then the PFA) approved them and around 20 owners went on to fit the same design of struts (they gave a significant performance and fuel saving).

I didn't hold any form of approval from the CAA or LAA (PFA), but was approved to supply kits of parts for people to mod their own aircraft, subject to getting an inspection and sign off from the LAA (PFA).

In your case, why didn't you fit the missing rivets during the build? Surely you weren't supplied with ready built parts, as that is outwith the regulations that govern kit built PtF aircraft.................. (excepting some from Eastern Europe, to my certain knowledge).

1st Jan 2018, 19:48
the missing rivets were fitted during the kit manufacture, by the kit maker, they were drilled out by the repairer and never replaced. They are solid rivets, which I am not equiped or trained to do. As a builder of the kit I only had to cope with pop rivets, nuts bolts and washers. All required holes for the build were pre or pilot drilled so there was little scope for me to mess things up. The repairer (UK agent), however, has messed things up quite well.

Just buying and fitting a replacement bracket is not going to be straight forwards in that the replaced bit of the fuselage structure does not line up with the butchered holes in the existing bracket. As I said previously, I can't tell if it is out of alignment due to the new part being fitted in the wrong place of if it has been pulled out of position due to flying loads. Either way the holes won't line up. If I get the bracket reverse engineered the best I can expect to do will be to secure the replaced structural part in the wrong position. This doesn't sound satisfactory.

1st Jan 2018, 20:36
Interesting, and probably pushing the legal boundaries of the aircraft being supplied as a kit, I suspect. However, because it was supplied as a kit you're not required to get parts from the UK agent, anyone who's competent can make replacement parts to the required spec, and as long as an LAA inspector signs them off you're fine (in fact you may well have a more airworthy aircraft, having seen some of the Eastern European crap first hand).

The kit rule is generally that at least 51% of the total labour MUST be undertaken by the kit builder, and the kit builder is then, in law, the manufacturer, not the kit supplier. The onus for airworthiness rests with the kit builder and the oversight authority, in your case the LAA.

In practical terms it means you can get do repairs to get the aircraft flying again, have them inspected and get your PtF revalidation chit, then you can take action to recover some losses from the repairer, and look at whether you can have the repairer's authorisation to do such repairs revoked, on the basis of your experience.

The only fly in the ointment may be if someone deemed that it wasn't a true kit build, in that some major assemblies were pre-manufactured when supplied, and that the percentage work by the kit builder didn't fall within the 51% required. I know of two well-known types that cheat like this, both of Eastern European origin, where frankly the UK agents were taking piss out of the rules. I sincerely hope that your A/C is not one of these, as the LAA were rather well-known for turning a blind eye to the 51% rule at one time (in sharp contrast to the way the BMAA handled companies that tried to pull stunts like this).

Bear in mind that things like the engine, prop, avionics etc all fall within the 51% rule, hence the reason that it can be challenging to get under it if pre-manufactured parts are supplied as a part of the kit.

2nd Jan 2018, 03:49
Have you considered this avenue?

Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1982/29)

A key phrase appears to be: "That the supplier will carry out the service with reasonable care and skill."

Here's another helpful page.

The job is a complete mess! Do I still have to pay? (http://whatconsumer.co.uk/the-job-is-a-complete-mess-do-i-still-have-to-pay/#.WksL8kycb1w)

5th Jan 2018, 17:04
things have moved on a bit this week in two directions.

The Citizens Advice have recommended writing to the repairer, in the first instance, using their template for complaints against traders. Copies of all correspondence to be kept and everything sent by signed for delivery post with advice of delivery returned to me. Should this fail to sort the situation I can go back to them.

The other news is that I have managed to track down the independent claims assessment company that handled the dealings between the broker, the repairer, the insurance company, myself and the transport company employed to recover the aircraft from abroad. The company took a bit of tracking down as the company has changed their name and the contact there has moved on. However, the company has all of the original case details on record and are interested enough to look into things. They might even get the insurance company involved, which I think is a good sign.

Fingers crossed.

5th Jan 2018, 17:35
If the insurance company get involved it will usually give a reasonable outcome. I work for insurance companies in cases like this, as a consultant/expert witness, and can hand on heart say that, although insurers try very hard to limit liability, they are also very intolerant of poor work undertaken with their money.

Clearly if your insurer is one who has me on their list then I'm afraid I'll drop out of this thread if I'm asked for an opinion, but then you know me anyway, and could have guessed as much! If your insurer isn't one I've worked with, then I'll do my best to try and give the same quality of advice here that I would give a client insurer, with due regard to some of the inevitable confidences that are involved.

5th Jan 2018, 17:36
Other thing, have you contacted the manufacturer and informed them of the shoddy workmanship their agent is carrying out in their name.

5th Jan 2018, 20:05
I have not been in contact with the aircraft designer and kit original manufacture, yet. Incidentally, he was at the scene when the aircraft was damaged and cast his eye over the damage. I have his business card somewhere ............