What Causes Small Plane Crashes in California?

What Causes Small Plane Crashes in California?

July 17, 2023

The commercial crash rate hit 0.0 per 100,000 flight hours in 2020. However, the small plane crash rate was much higher. The National Safety Council registered over 13,000 small plane crashes in 2020. A significant number of these crashes involved serious or fatal injuries. Overall, small plane aviation is much safer today than it was in the late 20th century. However, that’s little comfort to small plane crash victims and their families.

From a legal standpoint, these crashes are quite complex. Usually, the passengers on these planes were residents of different counties, or even different states. Additionally, an offshore or out-of-state holding company usually designed, built, and maintained the plane. So, just getting through the courthouse door is challenging. Then, an attorney must prove that another person or entity was responsible for the crash. Because of all these complexities, only the most savvy Los Angeles personal injury attorney should handle such claims.

Manufacturer Error

Small planes have millions of parts. Unless all these parts work perfectly, and work perfectly together, the lane will probably crash. Some common manufacturer errors include:

  • Design Defect: These errors are quite common in aircraft. The Boeing 737 Max is a good example. This aircraft had issues with the guidance system and with the airplane’s designs (the engines were too heavy for the wings). Yes, we know the Boeing 737 Max is a commercial plane, but Boeing also makes small planes.
  • Manufacturing Defect: Small plane parts must withstand a lot of wear and tear. The flight time is only the beginning. These parts also vibrate during flight. That slight vibration adds up over time and could compromise the part’s integrity. That’s especially true if, as is usually the case, the manufacturer used low-quality imported parts.

Generally, manufacturers are strictly liable for the personal injuries their defective products cause. Fault or negligence is only relevant to the amount of damages.

Pilot Error

Although small plane pilots must log hundreds of hours before they’re even licensed, pilot error causes over 80 percent of small plane crashes. Specific mistakes include:

  • Taxiing Errors: A surprising number of small plane pilots taxi down the wrong runway, where they crash into debris or other obstacles. These crashes are especially common if pilots are used to small, single-runway airports. Additionally, air traffic controllers sometimes misdirect pilots.
  • Takeoff Errors: Most pilot error crashes occur during or shortly after takeoff. Common issues include failure to build up sufficient speed, misuse of instruments, and loss of control. External conditions, such as an icy or slippery runway, or pilot miscalculation may cause loss of control.
  • Navigational Errors: VFR into IMC (visual flight rule into instrument meteorological conditions, or flying into bad weather) is a close second to takeoff errors. Many overconfident pilots believe they can successfully pilot aircraft through bad weather. That’s especially true if VIP passengers pressure them not to lose time.
  • Flight Envelope Deviations: This term refers to the plane’s top speed, service ceiling (i.e., the highest altitude at which the aircraft can fly), maximum pitch, roll, and yaw, and other maneuverability aspects. Experienced and novice pilots alike often lose control of their planes when they deviate even slightly from the flight envelope.

Compensation is available in these cases if a Los Angeles personal injury attorney proves negligence, or a lack of care. Pilots are common carriers in California. As a result, they have a higher duty of care than most other vehicle operators. The higher duty of care makes it easier to prove a lack of care.

Mechanic Error

Pilot duty of care begins before the plane leaves the ground. Pilots must visually inspect their planes and look for obvious problems. Mechanics have a duty to look even further and basically assume that something is wrong with the plane. The industry standard for mechanics in certain locations usually establishes the duty of care.

Usually, if a mechanic was negligent, the airport or other facility that employed the mechanic is financially responsible for damages, under the respondeat superior rule. This legal doctrine holds employers financially responsible if their employees were negligent during the course and scope of their employment.

Frequently, mechanics are independent contractors for most purposes. However, mechanics are almost always employees for negligence purposes, since their employers control their behavior, at least to some extent. Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim & Sharona Hakim, Attorneys. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.

Credit: Photo by "Leslie Cross" on Unsplash

Sharona Hakim

Sharona Eslamboly Hakim, Esq. is a successful personal injury attorney and the principal of the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim firm in Beverly Hills, California.

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