Saturday, January 5, 2013

Safer in the Air

Remember this classic bit from comedian George Carlin:

Here's a phrase that apparently the airlines simply made up: near miss.  They say that if 2 planes almost collide, it's a near miss.  Bull****, my friend.  It's a near hit!

Not to be lost in this otherwise good joke is the very serious and seemingly increasing occurrence of airplane collisions that occur not in the air, but on the ground.

This week, airplanes operated by Spirit Airlines and US Airways collided while maneuvering on the ground at the international airport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

This latest incident (which apparently happened almost imperceptibly to the 167+ passengers in this case, by the way) no doubt will further fuel the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation of September 5, 2012 to equip large airplanes with anti-ground collision aid, such as on-board external-mounted camera systems. 

Meanwhile, apart from regulatory and government efforts to address related airport operations, insurance claims are likely to follow as between the private airlines.  To the extent the actions of air traffic controllers (who are federal employees) contributed to the incident in Ft. Lauderdale, there is significant legal precedent inoculating  the federal government from liability under the Federal Tort Claims Act.  See Kodar, LLC v. U.S., --- F. Supp. 2d ---- (D.R.I. 2012).

As a practical matter: Seatbelts, everybody.