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Express flights not always owned and operated by major airlines, suffer differing standards of care
CLEVELAND, Ohio, Feb. 18, 2009—After the tragic airplane crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo N.Y., many questions and concerns have arisen regarding airline safety and flying during icy weather conditions. Cleveland-based aviation accident expert and lawyer Jamie R. Lebovitz points out that many small airplanes similar to Flight 3407 that use the names and logos of major airlines are not, in fact, owned or operated by large airlines. Often, the smaller planes are owned by regional carriers that have agreements with major airlines for the sole purpose of enabling large carriers to derive revenue from airports that are difficult for their airplanes to access.
“Most travelers do not realize that regional and commuter airlines that operate under major airline names—such as Continental Express, USAir Express, or United Express—are not actually owned or controlled by them,”
Lebovitz, who has more than 20 years of experience handling airplane accidents, said.
“The passengers on the fatal Continental Flight 3407 were not flown on Continental Airlines equipment, they were not flown by pilots trained by Continental Airlines, and they were not being transported to the same standards of care as their fellow passengers on Continental Airlines.”
For years, the problem of flying turboprop aircraft, such as the Bombardier Dash-8 used for Flight 3407, in icing conditions has been a major safety of flight concern. Unlike jet aircraft that have systems to heat the wings and tail to prevent ice buildup (also referred to as anti-icing systems), propeller-driven turboprop aircraft have de-icing systems that require pilots to first allow the buildup of ice to occur. Pilots then activate a system that inflates the leading edges of the wings and tail, which essentially breaks off the ice from the airplane. The training required to operate aircraft of this type in icing conditions, however, is not adequate, Lebovitz explained.
He says the concern with this antiquated de-icing system is that it’s not reliable under all conditions and could increase the amount of ice buildup on the wings and/or tail while disrupting the flow of air over the wings and inhibiting the aerodynamic lift capabilities of the aircraft. This reaction can cause a plane to lose lift and altitude, ultimately resulting in a plane crash.
In 2007, Lebovitz was part of the lead trial counsel that handled the American Airlines Flight 5966 crash, which occurred in Kirksville, Mo. The Jetstream 32 twin-engine turboprop plane, which was owned by Corporate Airlines (now RegionsAir), was on its final approach to land when it crashed, killing 13 of the 15 passengers aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilots’ failure to follow established procedures and maintain a professional demeanor during the flight. Their fatigue likely contributed to their degraded performance as well. Along with his colleagues, Lebovitz was able to help expose the serious safety differences between a small, regional airline and a large, national airline. (Case No. 052-00275, Susanne Wandel, etc., et al., v. American Airlines, Inc., et al., Missouri Circuit Court, Twenty-Second Judicial Circuit)
“The public is under the misconception that when they board an airplane with the logos of major airlines they are getting the same level of care and safety as if they were flying on airplanes owned and operated by the major airlines,” Lebovitz said. “Our firm has represented many families whose loved ones were victims of aviation disasters where dangerous icing conditions have been a major factor. As a result, we have been able to identify the design defects of these airplanes and the deficiencies in training pilots who find themselves confronted with icing weather conditions.”
For the last 20 years, attorney Jamie R. Lebovitz, senior partner with Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, has been bringing justice to the families of those who have perished in aviation accidents as well as to the survivors. He has been involved in litigation concerning most major commercial aircraft crashes both in the United States and around the world and has helped to bring about significant change in the way airlines do business and the way manufacturers design and produce airplanes.
One case in particular—the 1994 crash of US Airways Flight 427 near Pittsburgh that killed all 132 passengers and crew members on board. Mr. Lebovitz helped bring to the forefront the design flaws with the Boeing 737’s rudder system, particularly a valve in the rudder control unit that sometimes jammed. Because of its faulty rudder system, Flight 427 slammed into a wooded hillside in Beaver County just minutes before it was scheduled to land at Pittsburgh International Airport. (Case No. MDL 1040, U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania)
Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy has served the needs of catastrophically injured clients in Ohio since 1928, and for the last 18 years throughout the United States. The Cleveland, Ohio, law firm is known for its success in cases involving medical malpractice, wrongful death, defective products, airplane crashes, railroad crossing collisions, unfair business practices, insurance, and class action litigation. The aviation accident attorneys at Nurenberg Paris pride themselves on their knowledge of the law, state of the art trial techniques and strategies, and the ability to attain positive outcomes in the appellate courts. For more information, visit www.nphm.com.
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