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Widow Awarded $2.1 Million in AA LIT Crash Suit

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Widow Awarded $2.1 Million in AA LIT Crash Suit

Old 3rd Jun 2005, 14:07
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Widow Awarded $2.1 Million in AA LIT Crash Suit

Widow of Pilot Awarded $2.1M in Ark. Crash

By DAVID HAMMER

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 2, 2005; 11:22 PM

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- A federal jury Thursday ordered the Little Rock National Airport to pay more than $2.1 million to the widow of a pilot killed when his American Airlines jet crashed during a severe thunderstorm six years ago.

While the National Transportation Safety Board had cited errors by Capt. Richard Buschmann, his widow Susan sued the airport in an effort to clear his name. She said the airport had a runway safety zone that failed to meet government standards.

Jurors deliberated less than a half-day before ruling. They rejected the airport's argument that Buschmann contributed to his own death _ and the deaths of 10 others _ when he elected to land during bad weather.

Flight 1420 sped off a runway near the Arkansas River on June 1, 1999. The plane, still traveling about 90 mph, hit a structure supporting approach lights, broke apart and caught fire. Witnesses said the light tower was 453 feet off the north end of the runway _ shy of the government's 1,000-foot standard.

After the accident, the airport reconfigured the safety area to remove obstructions.

"I feel like my husband's been exonerated," Susan Buschmann said after the verdict. After jurors left the room, she hugged her lawyers.

Defense lawyers said they would consider an appeal.

In closing arguments, Susan Buschmann's lawyer had told jurors to ask themselves why the approach light system was so close to the runway and why wasn't it designed to break away on impact.

"How could anybody justify putting that two-story steel structure in a place where an airplane is supposed to be safe?" attorney Arthur Wolk asked.

Wolk repeatedly took offense at the airport's lawyers and witnesses' questioning of Buschmann's piloting skills, saying they were impugning a dead man "who can't stand up for himself."

Defense lawyer Richard Watts asked the jury to look at the evidence and not be swayed by such emotional appeals.

"There's no indication that Richard Buschmann wasn't that type of (skillful) pilot, a family man and a good man. (Evidence) simply says that on that night, he was human and made mistakes," Watts said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...060202175.html
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Old 3rd Jun 2005, 17:51
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So should the estates of the other 10 fatalities go on and sue the pilot's estate now?
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Old 3rd Jun 2005, 18:57
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Your remark is tongue in check I suspect but it really raises a good point and illustrates a fundamental problem with the legal system, the lack of counter balance.

Juries get presented, in emotional terms, the "aggrieved" party in the flesh versus some faceless "big entity". In their attempts to do right they simple take the money from a large unrepresented group, the other users of the system or product.

I'll bet if they were told - award this money and next time you park at the airport it will cost you another 50 cents you get another verdict.

A jury awarded Carnahan (sp) widow a large sum on totally bogus grounds in a suit against Parker Hannifin. The problem is every GA pilot gets to pay that award the next time they pony up $500 for a $100 item.

Personally I'd like to see the pilot groups sue the next time there is such an award.

I'd also like to win the lottery - we'll see.
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Old 3rd Jun 2005, 21:36
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An astonishing verdict. This particular accident is presented in CRM classes as an example of how not to do it. One hopes that claims are now filed against the pilot's estate to be heard by juries able to exercise proper judgment.
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Old 4th Jun 2005, 01:07
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XL5 has hit the nail on the head - this accident has been charitably described to me by some of my American (nationality, not airline) colleagues as a 'CRM clusterf****, although be it also noted the NTSB specifically cited fatigue as a contributary, IIRC.

The overrun safety zone wasn't the standard prescribed by current regs, but it *was* perfectly legal as it was 'grandfathered'. I don't understand how the jury was guided to this verdict.

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Old 4th Jun 2005, 11:53
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Well the berm that snapped the tail off the MK 747 as it tried to get airborne was legal too. Who/what was to blame there - improper T/O performance calcs or a berm, or....excessive fatigue legally allowed by current Flight Time regs?
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Old 4th Jun 2005, 15:34
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Surely the people sat at the front are in control of the aircraft and RESPONSIBLE for the safety of ALL concerned. The fact that there was an obstruction off the end of the runway shouldn't matter - as he shouldn't have been there anyway!

We don't regularly land MD-80's on grass - that's what the runway is for ??? They shouldn't have continued but diverted to the alternate or held off until such times as the weather had cleared through...... the good old legal system at its best...
 
Old 4th Jun 2005, 16:30
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Sadly, this particular accident is part and parcel of the airline concerned....American Airlines, specifically.

These folks have the undisinguished record of having the highest hull loss rate amongst the US major carriers and, if one looks at previous AA accidents/incidents, one cannot help but notice that American Airlines clearly has a problem, and everyone (except the folks at AA) can see the difficulties.
This Littlerock accident aircraft was commanded by a fleet Chief Pilot...and just look at the result.
NO amount of ...aw, he/they were tired...cuts the mustard.
Shameful performance...certainly.
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Old 4th Jun 2005, 19:25
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These folks have the undisinguished record of having the highest hull loss rate amongst the US major carriers and, if one looks at previous AA accidents/incidents, one cannot help but notice that American Airlines clearly has a problem, and everyone (except the folks at AA) can see the difficulties.


411A

Please report your alleged "difficulties" over the last couple of years.

Real facts would be useful here, not guesses or "I heard it said..." etc.

DD
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 08:37
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If one takes the rather longer view, dallas dude, we find,

Accidents...

Little Rock
Cali Colombia
New York A300-600R

All serious accidents.

Incidents...

Landing on the taxiway at SEA comes to mind.

Clearly not a distuingished record.
Would you not agree?

Now, you could say...well, it 'happens' and as AA have rather a lot of daily departures, so a few problems might develop.

The accidents/incident I have referred to above absolutely could have been prevented if the AA pilots concerned had been paying attention to what they were doing.

Do you disagree?
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 08:52
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411A
Same argument applies for most accidents...
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 14:03
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I remember seeing the photos of this accident and was frankly very surprised that the airport had allowed this structure to stand - 'grandfathered' or not, when many airports have gone for fully frangible structures within the RESA. I'm not sure if the earth bank the MK 747 hit was actually within their RESA.

Definition of RESA - 'An area symmetrical about the extended runway centreline and adjacent to the end of the strip primarily intended to reduce the risk of damage to an aeroplane undershooting or overrunning the runway'.

There's lots more about the suitablity of the ground - can your fire appliances get across it - and the slope etc etc.

RESAs should be a minimum of 90 metres beyond the end of the runway and 'aids to navigation, which because of their function must be placed within a runway end safety area to meet air navigation requirements, should be constructed and sited to reduce the potential hazards to a minimum and consequential risks to an acceptable level'.


It is a pity that the system requires various injured parties to sue one another to receive compensation - a bit like each driver at a queue at the traffic lights has to sue the driver behind until you get to the person at the back who has actually caused the accident.

Perhaps they should be suing the FAA for giving the aerodrome a licence to operate with this clearly non-frangible structure? Does it work like that in the US?

If you REALLY need this sort of structure, then the only answer, in my view, is to reduce your declared distances until you can create a proper safety area in front of your first non-frangible obstruction. Then, of course, you're going to lose traffic and revenue. In which case, the cheapest option, in the end, is to remove your obstructions. It just doesn't seem like it before you have the more expensive accident...

Cheers,
The Odd One
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 16:13
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411A

Over the course of several years many airlines appear to suffer an unfortunate "proneness" to accidents.

One could argue that Pan Am's record during the 60's-70's was shocking. Given some of the destinatiions they were operating to may mitigate that statistic.

As usual you miss the point....

You also conveniently forget that AA previously achieved a million hours flight time without an accident.

You continue to suggest (today) that AA's 'difficulties' continue.

One more time, please provide evidence. Give some tangible reasons/causes, not just assign blame.

DD
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 16:47
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Tangible reasons, dallas dude?

I would suggest poor flight deck crew training as the root cause.
That, and the general 'we can do no wrong' attitude that AA pilots seem to have.
It is certainly noticed by many, DD, no matter what you may perceive.

Take the Littlerock Commander, as an example.
Surely you must admit that this guy, an experienced AA pilot, had no business landing in the conditions he found that day.

Judgement, at least in this case (Cali also) seemed to go out the window.

Just as simple as that, IMO.
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Old 5th Jun 2005, 21:40
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OddOne:

I seem to recall the reason this structure wasn't replaced with frangible is that it was sited on a flood plain - about 15' below runway level. It would have been washed away regularly if it had been made frangible.

At least that's what I heard. Think the report discussed it in those terms too.

Reducing the declared distances... well that's another can of worms, commercial worms as you say...

R1
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Old 6th Jun 2005, 02:17
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From testimony during the trial...

"Based on his calculations, if there had been no obstructions, the plane would have slid into the Arkansas River still going 83.6 mph, he said. The plane was sliding at about 95 mph when it hit the steel light structures."

How many people would have been killed if the aircraft wound up in the water? We will never know.

Jury awards such as this are a tax in this country. The plaintiff attorney advertises on his website that he is responsible for a billion dollars in settlements (all aviation related).

The NTSB report on this accident is particularly ugly.

http://www.ntsb.gov/ntsb/brief2.asp?...99MA060&akey=1

I am truly sad for crew and passengers alike, however......

This trial does nothing but enrich the family and attorney. The widow stated that the sole reason for pursuing litigation was to clear her husbands name. If that is so, then I guess we will hear of her donation to charity the proceeds from this litigation.

Not holding my breath..........
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Old 6th Jun 2005, 06:40
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The National Transportation Safety Board says it will stand by a report blaming pilot error for a 1999 plane crash and likely will ignore a jury's decision to fault the airport.

Jurors on Thursday awarded the widow of Capt. Richard Buschmann more than $2.1 million after her lawyers argued that conditions at the airport - not Buschmann's mistakes during an attempt to land in a severe thunderstorm - were the main cause of his death. Ten others also were killed.

The NTSB said its conclusions were reached by aviation experts, as opposed to 11 random people from varied backgrounds. "This is a separate process with ... different competencies involved,'' NTSB spokesman Paul Schlamm said. He said no one had asked the NTSB to reconsider its report.

Susan Buschmann, of Naperville, Ill., sued the airport and its governing board, saying her husband likely would have survived the crash if the airport fully met Federal Aviation Administration safety guidelines. The airport's defense echoed NTSB statements that Buschmann made mistakes as his flight descended into Little Rock while lightning cracked around the plane.

American Airlines Flight 1420 sped off a runway near the Arkansas River on June 1, 1999. The plane, still traveling about 90 mph, hit a structure supporting approach lights, broke apart and caught fire. Witnesses said the light tower was 453 feet past the north end of the runway - shy of the government's 1,000-foot standard. After the accident, the airport reconfigured the safety area to remove obstructions.

Susan Buschmann has said she believes the federal court jury's decision exonerated her husband. The airport, whose insurance company will cover the award, said it has not yet decided whether it will appeal.
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Old 6th Jun 2005, 10:06
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The Discovery Channel did a recreation of this tragic accident that followed the FDR, CVR, radar track, and the NTSB report.

It was very realistic and an excellent training aid for why good CRM is important.
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Old 7th Jun 2005, 12:53
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Donít see the relevance of Shore Guy and othersí comments. The jury found that if the lighting array had been where it was recommended to be the captain might not have died when the cockpit hit it. The court did not absolve the flight crew from responsibility for the situation, nor does it question the NTSBís findings. And since nobody knows whether they would have drowned in the river had the array not been there, it canít be considered as evidence in court. Basically, the widow may have deserved a sacked husband, but not a dead one. Canít see anything about the world being held to ransom by lawyers in this story. If you donít put structures where they are supposed to be or install them as they are supposed to be installed, you are wide open to liability if it should result in death or injury.
There should be arrestor-beds at runway ends, and if that is not possible at least they should be clear of obstacles.
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