Awards $89 Million To Survivor And Families
A Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia has awarded $89 million to
the survivor of a 1999 plane crash in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as
the families of those who lost their lives in the accident. The
11-member jury said that engine manufacturer Lycoming knew about
and concealed a known carburetor problem with the engine in the
1968 Piper Cherokee. The airplane went down just after a refueling
stop in Youngstown, Ohio, killing four people and leaving one
15-year-old survivor. Court awarded $25 million in compensatory
damages, and $64 million in punitive damages.
The Associated Press reports that the case has been in
litigation for 10 years. Twice, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had
dismissed arguments by Lycoming that very large claims are barred
in cases involving defects in airplanes more than 18 years old.
The probable cause report from the NTSB, which is not admissible
as evidence in such cases, makes no mention of any engine problems.
It indicates pilot error was the likely cause of the accident:
"After landing, the airplane's main fuel tanks were filled,
and the five people got back onboard. The tail was almost touching
the ground, and the airplane was sitting nose high. After takeoff,
the airplane appeared to have a hard time climbing out, and was
'hanging on the prop.' The airplane turned toward a left downwind.
It was initially nose high, then started to slowly lose altitude.
Altitude loss quickened, the airplane's nose fell through, and the
airplane maintained a sliding, left turn until it impacted the
ground about 1/2 mile southwest of the airport. The engine was
heard 'roaring' prior to impact, chordwise scratches were found on
the propeller blades, and rotational marks were found on the
starter housing. The estimated weight of the airplane was
approximately 10 pounds under maximum gross weight, while center of
gravity computations, using several different baggage loading
scenarios, ranged from 1.1 inches, to 0.3 inches, forward of the
aft center of gravity limit. Temperature at the time of the
accident was 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and the density altitude was
about 2,600 feet msl.
"The National Transportation Safety
Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as
"The pilot's loss of control of the
airplane during a turn. Factors include the pilot's failure
maintain sufficient airspeed, and his failure to maintain the
airplane in proper trim."