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Sat, Apr 18, 2009

Lawyer Praises NTSB's Action Against 'The Corvair Of The Air'

Likens Troubled Sport Aircraft To Ill-Fated DeHavilland Comet

You just knew it wouldn't be long before someone in the legal community jumped on the action taken this week by the National Transportation Safety Board, calling for the immediate grounding of the Zenair Zodiac CH601 line of aircraft. The NTSB's urgent recommendation was a "heroic decision that could save lives if the Federal Aviation Administration acts promptly," aviation lawyer Ladd Sanger said Friday.

"The Zodiac is the Corvair of the air," said Sanger, managing partner of the Slack & Davis law firm in Dallas, TX as well as a licensed commercial pilot (it's unclear which of those titles also makes him qualified as an aircraft engineer or designer -- Ed.)

References to a certain problematic General Motors compact automobile from the mid-1960s aside, Sanger believes he's on solid footing in stating "[t]his is a poorly designed and tested aircraft that poses a danger to anyone who flies in it. The NTSB's recommendation to ground the fleet is nothing short of heroic."

As ANN reported this week, the NTSB issued safety recommendations A-09-30 (urgent) through A-09-37 and A-09-38 through A-09-40 calling for the FAA to "prohibit further flight" of all CH601-XL aircraft, until the FAA can determine whether the type has adequate protection from aerodynamic flutter in its controls. The recommendations included requiring possible design modifications and other industry-wide improvements for the small sport aircraft.

The NTSB recommendations noted there had been six documented accidents where flutter is believed to have been a factor, resulting in 10 fatalities.

Sanger believes the flutter issue isn't the only aerodynamic design failure, stating the Zodiac "also has significant design problems with a new canopy design that does not meet FAA standards and, if it comes open in flight, will block the airflow over the horizontal tail resulting in inability to control the aircraft.

"I am currently representing the family of Dennis Levy, who died as a result of injuries he sustained in an August 14, 2008 Zodiac crash near Farmersville, TX," the attorney added. "Just two weeks ago I inspected the wreckage of this aircraft and was astounded at the numerous poor design features of the aircraft, some of which do not even meet the minimum FAA standards."

The Zodiac is sold as both a homebuilt kit, as well as a factory-assembled Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA) -- neither of which are subject to Part 23 certification standards by the FAA.

Sanger goes on to note he has worked "hundreds of plane crash cases... The Zodiac is perhaps one of the most unairworthy aircraft since the de Havilland Comet which had to be grounded because fatigue cracks from the windows caused in-flight structural failures."

FMI:, Read The NTSB Recommendation Letters Here And Here (.pdf)


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