Late Missouri Governor's Wife Accuses Parker Hannifin
The way the family of the late Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan
sees it, Parker Hannifin Co. knew for 20 years its vacuum pumps
were responsible for plane crashes, but did nothing about it. The
way the defense tells it, the problem wasn't mechanical, it was
"inadvertent" spatial disorientation on the part of Carnahan's
pilot -- his son, Randy.
The Carnahans are suing Parker Hannifin for unspecified damages
after the governor's Cessna 335 went down October 16, 2000.
Governor Carnahan was on the campaign trail, running for US Senate
against John Ashcroft, before his appointment as US Attorney
According to the NTSB report, Randy Carnahan was flying from St.
Louis Downtown Airport in Cahokia (IL) to County Memorial Airport
in New Madrid (MO) at around 7:30 pm when he reported having
trouble with his attitude indicator while he was in IMC.
Eventually, he asked for and was granted permission to divert to
Jefferson City (MO), where he thought he might be able to get out
of IMC. The Cessna 335 never made it. Instead, it impacted a grove
of trees near Hillsboro (MO). The NTSB report indicates the
aircraft was traveling at approximately 300 kts when it struck the
ground. Three people were killed. There were no survivors.
In its report, the NTSB says:
On the basis of the
examination of the left-side (primary) attitude indicator, it was
determined that the rotor was most likely spinning, but not at a
high enough rpm to keep the display erect (the wreckage fragments
of the left-side attitude indicator clearly aligned in an inverted
attitude), indicating that this attitude indicator was not
displaying properly at the time of impact. Although the pilot
reported that his primary attitude indicator had failed and
examination of the attitude indicator supported that such a failure
had occurred, the investigation could not determine the cause of
the failure in that instrument.
On the basis of the examination of the right-side attitude
indicator, it was determined that the rotor was spinning, the
display was erect when the airplane made initial contact with the
trees, and the attitude it displayed was consistent with the
airplane's attitude when it struck the trees (as determined by an
inspection of the accident site and a three-dimensional model of
the airplane's flight path through the trees), indicating that this
attitude indicator was functioning properly until the time of
After first reporting that the primary attitude indicator was
malfunctioning, the pilot continued flight for about 11 minutes,
including two controlled heading changes, indicating that the pilot
had functioning cockpit instruments and that he could control the
airplane. Further, in the event that an instrument malfunction
occurs, instrument flight rules (IFR)-qualified pilots are trained
to use other relevant instruments, which evidence indicates were
operating on the accident airplane (the right-side attitude
indicator). Therefore, the loss of the primary attitude indicator
alone does not explain why the pilot lost control of the airplane
However, the right-side attitude indicator was not large and would
have been several feet to the right of the pilot. Therefore, using
the right-side attitude indicator would have resulted in the pilot
making frequent, rapid head movements to cross-check that
instrument with the other instruments. The pilot's head movements
most likely caused him to experience spatial disorientation.
Further, the rain conditions in which the pilot was maneuvering
would have increased the noise level in the cockpit, and the
presence of turbulence would have made it more difficult to control
the airplane with failed instrumentation, both of which would
likely have exacerbated the pilot's spatial
What caused the attitude indicator to fail? That's the bone of
contention in the Carnahan family lawsuit. The family's lawyer,
Gary Robb, blamed the two vacuum pumps on board and went further in
his three-hour long opening statement. He said Parker-Hannifin has
known about pump problems for two decades. He claimed the company's
failure to correct the problem has caused 46 deaths.
"There is no question the primary attitude indicator went out on
this airplane," Parker-Hannifin attorney Wayne Taff said. "Why did
it fail? We'll never know." He also added that, given the redundant
nature of the vacuum pump configuration on the twin-engine Cessna
335, both pumps would have had to fail for them to have caused the
attitude indicator malfunction.
Further, the vacuum pump drives the directional gyro. The NTSB
report specifically states Randy Carnahan was able to follow
headings given to him by ATC. In other words, it appeared to
investigators that the DG was functioning at the time of the crash.
And as if to speak in final support of the manufacturer, the NTSB
indicated both pumps appeared to have been working when the
aircraft hit that grove of trees.