Defunct Airline Blames Inadequate Design Of 58-Year-Old
The General Aviation Revitalization
Act of 1994, which limited tort claims against manufacturers of
aircraft older than 18 years, allowed a renaissance among general
aviation manufacturers. But there are still attorneys trying to
find ways around it.
The Miami Herald reports Northrop Grumman faces two lawsuits
over the December 2005 crash of a 58-year-old Grumman Turbo Mallard
seaplane in passenger service with Chalk's Ocean Airways. Chalk's
was the last operator using the type in commercial passenger
service, and billed itself as the world's oldest airline, with a
history of flying famous Hollywood stars and infamous
Prohibition-era bootleggers to the Bahamas.
As ANN reported, the plane in question
suffered a right-wing separation, burst into flames, and crashed
into the ocean off Miami in view of crowds on the beach. The NTSB
ruled the wing separated due to fatigue cracks, and blamed
inadequate aircraft inspection by Chalk's, and lax maintenance
oversight by the FAA.
Chalk's went out of business, and the FAA grounded the remaining
Mallards and pulled Chalk's operating certificate.
Now, attorneys for Chalk's, its leasing companies, and AIG
Insurance have filed two suits in federal court in Miami and New
York, claiming the antique plane was "not adequately designed for
its intended purpose."
John Eversole, at attorney for Chalk's says the NTSB was wrong
to blame the airline.
"Our allegations are that there was a weak area where the wings
are attached to the fuselage," he said "...This area is enclosed
and cannot be inspected. The metal is built around the area where
this wing sheared off... You can't inspect it, you can't perform
maintenance on it. There is nothing you can do short of rebuilding
AIG is trying to recover 50-million dollars it paid out in
claims. Also named in both lawsuits is Frakes Aviation of Cleburne,
TX... which is unlucky enough to be the current holder of the STC
that allowed the retrofit of twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PT-6
turboprop engines, in the place of the Mallard's original radial
AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg,
commenting in his current blog, calls the case both amusing and
"We agree that manufacturers need to be responsible for their
products but is it only in aviation that companies can be held
liable indefinitely?" Landsberg writes "It will be interesting to
see if the legal system has the integrity to seriously question
what I believe is an unjustified suit -- without running up a huge