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Lear jet crash raises significant aviation safety and legal concerns

Written by editor

LOS ANGELES, CA (September 24, 2008) – The September 19, 2008 crash of a chartered Lear 60 business jet during takeoff from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina killed four oc

LOS ANGELES, CA (September 24, 2008) – The September 19, 2008 crash of a chartered Lear 60 business jet during takeoff from the Columbia Metropolitan Airport in Columbia, South Carolina killed four occupants and critically injured notable celebrities from the Atlanta area. It was reported that sparks were seen coming from the aircraft as it attempted to takeoff. A subsequent investigation also indicates that one of the jet’s tires may have failed during the takeoff.

This is not the first time that this problem has plagued a Lear Jet, according to aviation attorney Stuart Fraenkel, a partner in Kreindler & Kreindler LLP’s Los Angeles office. Lear Jets were involved in similar incidents in 1994 and 2001. “In the prior incidents, the jets were traveling down the runway for takeoff when one or more tires failed. In the 2001 case, showers of sparks were observed soon after the failure of its outboard right main tire manufactured by Goodyear. Both cases thankfully resulted in no injuries to those aboard.”

Kreindler & Kreindler LLP has vast experience in handling matters involving aviation accidents of this nature. Kreindler & Kreindler handled the 2001 air crash that claimed the life of R&B recording artist Aaliyah. In that incident, the plane attempted to takeoff from an airstrip in the Bahamas but crashed only 200 feet from the end of the runway, killing all nine aboard. Representing Aaliyah’s family members were Robert J. Spragg and Marc S. Moller, partners in Kreindler & Kreindler LLP’s New York office.

Pilot training and aircraft certification involving rejected takeoffs (RTO) will be critical to this case. If a decision to discontinue the takeoff is made after a specific speed, the chance of stopping on the remaining runway decreases and the likelihood of injury or death increases dramatically.

Both Boeing and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have studied problems associated with high-speed aborts of takeoffs involving jet aircraft. It was found that over half of the RTO’s it studied should not have occurred – in other words, the takeoffs should have proceeded and the problem handled once airborne.

Twenty-one percent of RTO’s were related to wheel and tire problems, real or perceived. In two incidents involving Lear Jets, pilots have encountered multiple blown tires on takeoff.

Mr. Fraenkel, states that this accident raises several important questions: “What is the quality of the maintenance on these charter aircraft? Was the runway environment safe for the aircraft’s departure? Was the aircraft properly checked out and configured by the crew prior to the attempted takeoff? What can be done to improve the procedures and protocols for charter operators?”

The two passengers injured in the Columbia, South Carolina, accident received burns over a large part of their body before being thrown clear of the flaming wreckage. The two pilots and remaining two passengers received fatal injuries from the crash.

The survivors will face a long road to recovery. Dr. Susan Friery, a medical doctor and attorney at Kreindler & Kreindler says that “second- and third-degree burns can require surgical intervention, including surgical grafts, and result in permanent nerve injury and scarring. It can take as long as a year to fully heal from these initial injuries and from the surgeries to repair them and numerous antibiotics and blood thinners to combat the surgical and non-surgical risks to the patient. Surgical revisions may be required due to kelating and scarring down of the tissues below the graft and many patients will be required to wear compression stocking (Jobst) for the rest of their life.”