DALLAS AIRSHOW MID-AIR COLLISION A COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY ACCIDENT

The tragic accident that took the lives of so many skilled pilots and crew members at the airshow in Dallas was totally preventable and the video is disturbing because of the clarity it brings to the cause.

YOU NEVER GO BELLY UP TO THE LEADER  As a former airshow pilot myself that admonition was drilled into my head by some of the best airshow and military trained pilots led by John Ellis who strictly enforced that and other airshow rules so there were no accidents. The CAT Flight which flew formation with multiple aircraft types of which I was a member as CAT 5 never had an accident even though 6 different aircraft joined up several times during the shows.

The formation training of the P-63 fighter pilot is unknown to me at this hour but the video clearly shows that his aircraft was belly up to the B-17 with which it appears he was attempting to join.

The reason for the rule is you lose sight of your leader and thus cannot judge distance, location speed or anything else. The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see whom you are supposed to be in formation with and that kind of join up is not permitted.

I am not blaming anyone and to the greatest extent possible airshows, the pilots and the aircraft that fly in them are safe. Airshows are one of the largest spectator events in America and it is rare that a tragedy like this occurs.

What can we learn? Training, training, training, discipline, discipline and more training.

Formation flying is not easy but to do it safely you must do it frequently or practice extensively before doing it in an airshow setting. The other rule about airshow safety is to take your time, do nothing you haven’t practiced before and never violate the airshow briefing and do only what is briefed. That way expectations from all pilots are the same and no deviations are expected.

Be careful what these “putative” ex Government experts are saying because they have never flown airshows or a vintage military aircraft for that matter.

For the most part, the aircraft are well maintained, expertly flown and care is taken to make sure that our national heritage of military aviation is displayed safely.

May the memories of those lost be a blessing to their families.

Watch the video below.

Arthur Alan Wolk

arthurwolk@airlaw.com

November 13, 2022

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OHIO CRASH OF E-90 KING AIR LIKELY ANOTHER ENGINE LOSS OF POWER WITH FOUR-BLADED PROPELLER.

Two pilots are dead in the fiery crash of a Beech E-90 King Air. The aircraft was equipped with four bladed propellers. While giving a quieter ride, these four-bladed propellers are like barn doors in the event of engine failure.

The investigation is just beginning but there is just no reason for an aircraft like this to crash absent a loss of power on one side.

The original aircraft was equipped with 3 bladed propellers and VMCA, minimum control airspeed with the critical engine wind-milling was computed with the propeller not feathered. When equipped with four-bladed propellers, the VMCA goes through the roof, some 30 knots higher and landing speeds are below VMCA. Absent immediate feathering of the propeller on the affected engine, the airplane will slow down and stall. On takeoff the airplane will roll towards the inoperative engine until upside down.

I have no doubt these pilots were skilled and experienced but taken by surprise recovery from an engine failure is no easy task.

Typical reasons for engine loss of power are PY air leak, bleed valve failure or less likely a catastrophic failure of either the power section or gas generator. In some modes of failure there is no annunciation of that failure to the pilots.

The Wolk Law Firm has handled a dozen King Air crashes due to loss of power.

May their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

October 18, 2

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VIRGINIA AIRPLANE CRASH KILLING 23 YEAR OLD FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR HAS EERIE SIMILARITY TO SO MANY OTHER SEAT SLIP ON TAKEOFF ACCIDENTS.

Witnesses describe the takeoff as a sudden pitch up, the airplane stalled and then crashed to the ground killing young flight instructor Viktoria Ljungman and injuring her student.

This has happened time after time in single engine Cessna’s when either the pilot’s or front passenger seat slides suddenly rearward while the pilot is holding onto the flight controls.

The grasping reflex causes the person in the pilot’s seat to hang on for dear life as the nose of the airplane pitches up too steeply to recover before stalling.

The surprise makes it impossible for even a flight instructor to wrest the controls away from the student  in time to save themselves.

The Wolk Law Firm obtained the largest aviation verdict of all time against Cessna for just such an accident. We are litigating another such crash that occurred in West Virginia under similar circumstances. In that accident the flight instructor’s seat slipped rearward on takeoff and the student was seriously injured though the flight instructor perished.

The Wolk Law Firm provided Cessna with a fix for this problem back in 1984 to no avail and again in the 1990’s again to no avail. There are still thousands of Cessna single engine airplanes out there with legacy seats that run the risk of similar accidents. The problem is the steel pins used to restrain the seats ride on aluminum rails which rapidly become worn such that the seat can slip. It happens on takeoff because the seat bends and ratchets out of the seat attachment hole as it is a flimsy design.

So long as Cessna makes no necessary changes these accidents will continue to happen and young pilots and student pilots will be killed and injured needlessly.

May the memory of  Viktoria Ljungman be a blessing to her family and hopefully her student will fully recover from his injuries.

Arthur Alan Wolk

October 10, 2022

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BEWARE OF OLD AIRPLANES – OLD CESSNA CITATION CRASHES IN THE BALTICS KILLING 4 AND AN EVEN OLDER DEHAVILLAND OTTER CRASHES IN SEATLLE KILLING 9

Old airplanes by definition have been around for a long time. There is something charming about flying in a vintage airplane put to use in romantic settings.

There’s a problem though. Old airplanes break a lot! No matter how much maintenance, how many modifications, upgrades and replaced parts there have been old airplanes just fail more frequently than new ones do and new ones fail a lot.

The problem with old airplanes is that seals get dry, gaskets rot, rubber parts harden and crack, composite parts wear out and even metal gets fatigue from expansion and contraction due to temperature changes and pressure changes and simply from moving and working the metal into brittleness.

Often, modifications are made through STC’s, a process that allows changes to an airplane with much less scrutiny than the original certification process which is bad enough, often allowing the manufacturers themselves, through the honor system, to essentially certify their own aircraft.

The Cessna Citation 501 has been around since the 1970’s and pressurization problems were reported in this aircraft.

Oxygen masks should have been sufficient for the crew to have landed without incident but for some reason the pilot chose to fly in a circuitous route before crashing into the sea. Oxygen deprivation is serious business and the outcomes are usually not good. Pressurization in light jets is accomplished by taking air off the engines and sending it into the front of the cabin and controlling its exit through outflow valves in the rear. The failure of either the entry controls or exit controls means pressurization failure which can mean loss of useful consciousness in as little as 20 seconds. Quick donning of the oxygen masks for the crew and a sufficient supply of oxygen for everyone is critical.

 

The De Havilland Otter is the workhorse airplane for odd places. It carries a lot, like 9 people or more and loads of cargo. In fact, it has so many STC’s its hard to count the many ways that it has been modified to carry more revenue producing people and cargo. Its engine was a turbine so the aircraft’s

old reciprocating engine was replaced with a much newer turboprop which would allow it to carry even more people and freight. The airplane however was sixty years old or more. Lots of them have been modified with floats or skis so they can be landed on water, ice and snow.  They have been used safely for decades. But they also crash a  lot because of the harsh environments in which they are used.

The Wolk Law Firm represents the families of a tragic fatal accident in Homer Alaska where the float of a De Havilland Beaver ( a smaller version of the Otter) became detached during takeoff causing the airplane to cartwheel and sink. The float was almost new, the attaching wires were almost new but because of poor and inadequate design the old airplane crashed. As an Airplane Transport Pilot Single and Multi-Engine Sea, I can say that taking off and landing on water can be challenging especially when things go wrong. While most think water is soft, it has little compressibility and can be as hard as concrete so a walk-away from a seaplane crash is no guarantee. Moreover, seaplanes operate in harsh and typically salty environments which wreaks havoc on metal parts. Salt can corrode metal spars and other aluminum parts so they are understrength. One multi-engine seaplane crashed in Florida killing all aboard because of corrosion of its main wing spar and a wing fell off.

The NTSB recovered much of the wreckage of the Otter and did find a failed stabilizer trim part that can explain the loss of control. The horizontal stabilizer is used to provide pitch stability and to trim pitch forces by moving its leading edge up or down. Disconnection can result in loss of pitch control which has happened before in other aircraft including an Alaska Airlines MD-80 that crashed into the Pacific years ago.

Old airplanes are difficult to maintain and fail catastrophically. The airlines learned this and renew their fleets more frequently now.

There is no coincidence that both were very old and old airplanes just like people don’t live forever.

There is no doubt that inadequate maintenance will have contributed to these accidents and perhaps defective design or manufacture. No airplane accident has one cause.

To the families of those who did not survive, may their memories be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

September 5, 2022

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ANOTHER CIRRUS SR22 GOES DOWN DUE TO LOSS OF POWER

WITHOUT A TURBINE ENGINE THIS MODEL IS DOOMED TO SUFFER MORE ACCIDENTS

A Cirrus SR22 piloted by an experienced and well-respected pilot was on approach to Wings Field, Blue Bell Pennsylvania when it suddenly lost power requiring an emergency landing on a golf course.

Both occupants survived though injured. This crash is important because the pilot survived. He will be able to explain his power loss which prevented him from achieving enough power to even maintain level flight. Plenty of fuel, no expense spared for maintenance but yet another two occupants were nearly killed when the powerplant failed.

There have been more than 100 losses of power in this model Cirrus. Many have been killed or injured and while the aircraft has a ballistic recovery system, a parachute that can be used to lower the aircraft to the ground safely, many pilots either cannot or are reluctant to pull that handle because it works only about 80% of the time and destroys the airplane.

The solution for Cirrus is to do away with this unreliable powerplant and develop with partners or buy an off-the-shelf turboprop powerplant which has immense reliability compared to the turbo-normalized piston powerplant it used in this model. Later models used an even more unreliable turbo-charged engine. A turboprop engine is a jet engine attached to a propeller and does not suffer the unreliability issues that piston engines do.

That switch would increase the cost of the aircraft which is now expensive at a million dollars each but each accident costs Cirrus millions to defend and compensate so the cost benefit should be obvious.

The impact on the victims and their families is unspeakable and morally there is no choice but to improve the Cirrus and its safety record.

The Wolk Law Firm has litigated many Cirrus loss of power accidents and while the NTSB will no doubt find nothing to explain this power loss, we recommend looking carefully at the turbo, its bearing and controller, the fuel pump and its controller and whether the exhaust system was functioning as it should just prior to the crash. Absent a catastrophic failure of the crankshaft, a broken rod or a hole burnt into a piston, it is likely the more obtuse causes that explain this sudden loss of power.

Cirrus is now explaining away the accident by claiming that the pilot ran out of gas. Well he didn’t. In fact, he stopped in South Carolina for fuel and was only 3 hours into the flight when the engine lost power, it never quit, it just couldn’t maintain flight. That’s how airplane manufacturers work. After spending the better part of a million dollars with them, they become your adversary when the defects they built in cause a crash.

Kudos to the pilot who successfully made an off-airport landing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

6/6/22

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Essex County New Jersey Bell 407 Helicopter Crash Is Eerily Similar to Charlottesville Virginia Crash of The Same Model That Killed Two Virginia State Police Troopers.

A Bell 407 piloted by an experienced  charter helicopter pilot crashed at the Essex County New Jersey Airport injuring the pilot.

The craft was seen rotating before the crash and pictures taken at the scene reveal a severed tail rotor driveshaft and fractured rotor blades. The tail rotor in that model counteracts the torque from the rotor blades and without it, the helicopter will rotate and it is a miracle that a safe landing was achieved.

The main rotor blades contacted the tail boom of the helicopter and severed it but that only can happen if a mechanical failure induces the main rotor blades to flap excessively. That happens due to delamination of the composite rotor blades resulting in excessive flapping, a stuck anti-torque-pedal limiter or sudden engine overspeed. All three have resulted in Model 407 accidents.

The Wolk Law Firm is litigating the deaths of two Virginia State Troopers killed when their Model 407 did precisely the same thing as in this latest accident, but it also fell into trees and burned.

Bell is defending the Virginia State Police case claiming that LTE or Loss of Tail Rotor Effectiveness and Vortex Ring State caused the Virginia accident, all of it totally made up. The problem is that both are defects in the design of the helicopter but neither caused that accident or this one.

In the Virginia crash, witnesses saw the helicopter rotating before it settled into the trees and it too had a severed tail rotor driveshaft and fractured main rotor blades.

The Model 407 has a bad accident history with one Band-Aid after another applied by Bell.

Perhaps this pilot who mercifully lived will be able to tell his story because in Virginia Bell relies on the fact that dead men tell no tales. They can’t!

Arthur Alan Wolk

6/5/22

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STUDENT PILOT’S FIRST SOLO RESULTS IN FATAL ACCIDENT AFTER LOSS OF POWER

Young Daniel Perelman was by all accounts an aviation enthusiast realizing his dream of becoming a pilot.

He was on his first solo, a landmark event in any young pilot’s life, when he reported engine trouble and crashed suffering life taking injuries. This is a sad day for the Perelman family.

The Cessna 152 he was flying has been around for decades. I trained in its predecessor the Cessna 150.

It has three flaws that no doubt contributed to this crash and the injuries suffered.

The first is that the design of the Cessna fuel tanks does not allow the complete removal of water and other sediments from the fuel. It is possible for a pilot to do a thorough pre-flight, draining the fuel tanks from the small drains at the bottom and never remove all the water because the drains are above the lowest point in the tank.

The second is that the engine is carbureted which means that even if the engine holds together after the hard use a trainer gets, fuel starvation or over enrichment can occur due to the lack of precision of the fuel delivery system. Carburetors work a little like a toilet water fill system. They have a float that shuts the replenishment of fuel when it gets too high in the bowl and allows the fuel to refill the bowl as necessary when the fuel is used. Often the needle valve gets stuck which is the Achilles heel of the system and will shut the engine down by either starving it of fuel or making the mixture so rich that the engine won’t run or loses power.

Carburetors also suffer from carburetor ice which forms inside the carburetor as the fuel expands in the air with which it is mixed. The temperature drops and ice can form if it is humid. This model engine is usually immune from carburetor ice due to the location of the carburetor especially on takeoff but the Cessna 152 does have a carburetor heat handle so it is not impossible.

The third flaw in this aircraft is its complete lack of crashworthiness. It is an unfriendly environment in case of accident. No airbags, no soft energy absorbing materials, inadequate seat belts and harnesses and many switches and knobs that are dangerous in the event of an impact because the fuselage does not attenuate impact it instantly contracts in size and then expands called spring back. The lack of structural rigidity enhances injuries.

Most trainers are fairly Spartan to keep the cost down but while not a perfect solution, selecting a more modern trainer with some built in safety features like fuel injection, crashworthy interior and a ballistic recovery system can lessen the risks that are always inherent in a single piston engine design.

The loss of any young life is an unspeakable tragedy. May this young man’s memory be a blessing.

Arthur Alan Wolk

May 31st, 2022

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CYNTHIA DEVERS OF THE WOLK LAW FIRM WINS APPEAL OF THE LALLO CASE

This win is especially poignant because of the abuse by the defense. The first trial took three months while the defendant deliberately delayed the trial. It filed no less than 8 appeals that were all thrown out.

The first trial ended in a mis-trial because the jury couldn’t stay longer and had served for months while the defense made it a point to waste their time.

The second trial was more of the same but the case went to verdict and the jury entered a 9-million- dollar verdict for Plaintiffs. The defense appealed that too but in a 34-page opinion the Superior Court of Pennsylvania rejected the defense arguments and affirmed the verdict and post-trial decision of the Court.

This decision is significant because it is one of the few trial court verdicts and post-trial decisions after the Pa. Supreme Court overhauled Pennsylvania’s Products Liability Law.

It affirms the ability of the trial judge to make issue by issue choice of law decisions and reaffirms the long-standing law that failure to create a record below makes an appeal non-justiciable as to that issue. The decision also made it clear that failing to adequately argue points on appeal with cogent citation of cases that are in point renders the appellate Court unable to address that argument.

This result is a relief to the Lallo family who have waited 9 years since the death of the mother and father in an airplane crash in Kansas City just moments after a visiting to celebrate the birth of their newest grandchild.

While the case should be over, the option remains for the defendant to ask the Pa. Supreme Court for relief but the strength of the Superior Court’s opinion should deter any reasonable legal mind from pursuing that course which will be unavailing while interest on the verdict mounts daily.

Cynthia wrote the brief and argued the appeal and deserves great credit for a magnificent result.

Arthur Alan Wolk

May 26, 2022

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ENGLISH IS THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF AVIATION WORLDWIDE-EXCEPT IN FRENCH SPEAKING QUEBEC AND FRANCE-NATIONALISTIC ARROGANCE ALMOST MARKED UNE CATASTROPHE FOR AN AIR FRANCE FLIGHT

A Boeing 777 was close to landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris when suddenly the crew received multiple warnings from the automation that something was awry. It appears that the aircraft which was operating on the automatic pilot veered off of the ILS (Instrument landing System) for Runway 26 Left and the crew was confused both about the many warnings it received but also what to do about it.

The warnings can be heard in the background as someone with a cooler head, hopefully the Captain, communicated in French with Air Traffic Control and another shouted “Stop, Stop, Stop!”

The aircraft commenced a missed approach, climbed and entered the hold waiting further instructions and so they could sort out the problem.

Here’s my take. First since English is the official language of aviation, had the crew communicated in English, the crews of other 777 aircraft or other Boeing aircraft similarly equipped may have understood the communications, heard the multiple warnings in the background, and been of some help.

This happened to me on approach to Montreal many years ago when the Captain of a Sabreliner was confused and lost situational awareness about other traffic because some pilots spoke in English and others in French. None of us knew where the others were. I spoke up about it and at least for a few moments everyone spoke English. Problem solved.

Ever since the Montreal based International Air Transport Association got involved in aviation, the English only rule has been slowly chipped away. Now we have a confusing patchwork of English/French acronyms that have confused aviation communication and made the skies more dangerous.

Bottom lining this incident, which thank God didn’t become an accident, the first rule in an automated cockpit that is going haywire, whether due to mis-selection of flight modes or malfunction is to “Kill the Automation!” We are pilots and whether it is a HondaJet or a Triple 7 all glass cockpit equipped airplanes are the same. They will get you into trouble in a blink of an eye and at low altitude in weather on an approach to an airport there is no time to fool around or try to reprogram or fix it. Just disconnect, execute a missed approach and FLY THE AIRPLANE.

Someone aboard the flight deck of this aircraft did just that and they all lived to fly another day. But before someone took control, there was confusion and disarray that could have spelled disaster.

Two lessons learned. Speak English! When in Doubt Kill the Automation and Fly the Aircraft!

BONNE CHANCE!

Arthur Alan Wolk

April 6, 2022

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THE BOEING 737 NEEDS TO STOP CRASHING STRAIGHT DOWN

The latest Boeing 737 crash in China is very disturbing. This aircraft for no apparent reason entered a steep dive from altitude and crashed straight into the ground killing all 133 aboard.

This is reminiscent of a number of other Boeing 737 accidents The Wolk Law Firm has investigated and litigated. The Boeing 737 all variants have suffered 83 crashes but in fairness it is the most numerous of any single airline model. However, the number of crashes or crashes per hundred million miles flown is not an accurate assessment of an airplane’s safety. The Boeing 737 has too many loss-of-control accidents due to control malfunctions and the consequences are always disastrous. Airplanes that dive straight into the ground due to design or mechanical flaws are unacceptable.

United 585 on approach to Colorado Springs rolled in while on approach and straight down killing 25.

USAir 427 did the same at Aliquippa Pennsylvania killing 133 people.

Another Silk Air 737 did the same years ago killing more than 100.

Another 737 did the same over Panama killing more than 120 people.

A Silk Air 737 Max did the same in Indonesia.

An Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max did the same and together with the Silk Air crash 346 people died.

In some of the other accidents the roll over into a dive was caused by a rudder hard over due to a defective rudder control. In the 737 Max instances, a defectively designed and built MCAS system allowed the horizontal stabilizer to move making pitch control impossible.

Every time, the manufacturer, Boeing, has blamed the pilots or some unheard-of weather phenomenon. It has been wrong each time.

While the 737-800 has different flight control systems than the other aircraft mentioned it does have an autopilot, a moveable horizontal stabilizer and a rudder control, all hydraulic and all subject to out of control malfunctions. Video purportedly of the moments before impact show what looks like a missile diving vertically into the ground. Such a maneuver with an intact airplane is almost impossible. This could only happen if the horizontal stabilizer is full nose down (front up) or beyond its pitch down limit and even then, if the airplane is all together, it is difficult to reach that degree of nose down absent a piece missing or a massive control malfunction.

The cockpit counter to an out of control horizontal stabilizer is to manually crank the pitch control over-ride wheel in the opposite direction, a feat requiring super-human strength when the airspeed builds up. The system needs a motor driven over-ride regardless of the cause of this accident.

The Wolk Law Firm knows more about 737 control malfunctions than any other law firm in the world as it was the source of the analysis and information that solved the rudder hard over cases.

The FAA, the agency that certified all the 737’s to this day has not admitted its responsibility for looking the other way with respect to the single rudder control in the legacy 737s and being totally and happily blindsided by Boeing’s failure to inform it of changes made to the MCAS system that made an out of control pitch event likely. In this instance the FAA, living up to its status as the most incompetent agency of Government, has done nothing as usual and has not asked airlines in the U.S. to check anything.

While foul play or maintenance error cannot be ruled out at this early juncture, even though Boeing 737s are the workhorse of the air transport industry, they crash too much straight down!

The Chinese grounded all their 800’s presumably until they can look at the flight data recorder and see what control caused this fatal dive. Hopefully they will be open about what they find even if it implicates Chinese maintenance, Chinese piloting, training or foul play.

Arthur Alan Wolk

March 22, 2022

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