Saturday, June 8, 2013

General Aviation Airplane Accident in South Florida

A troubling report that a two-engine private airplane crashed in the Everglades this evening, resulting in the death of its pilot.  The Federal Aviation Administration, together with the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB"), will now try determine the probable cause of the accident.

It has not yet been reported whether the pilot was a professional or recreational pilot.  Nor has any condition of the airplane, including its safety or maintenance record, been reported.

In accidents involving general aviation (as opposed to commercial) aircraft, the law that usually applies to claims is GARA, which is officially known as the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, 49 U.S.C. § 40101 note, Pub. L. 103-298.  That is a federal statute of repose that prohibits lawsuits against aircraft manufacturers arising out of accidents involving any general aviation aircraft or component part that is more than 18 years old.  GARA was implemented to rejuvenate the general aviation market in light of litigation costs arising from product liability lawsuits.  In considering GARA legislation, the United States Senate noted that “[t]he rationale for this time limitation is that general aviation manufacturers should not be exposed to liability for harm caused by their products for an unlimited period of time … Accidents involving general aviation aircraft which have been in use, for example, 25 years or more, are not likely to be due to any defect in the design or manufacture of the product because the product has operated safely for a long period of time.”  S. Rep. No. 202, 103d Cong. 1st Sess. (1993).

Whether pilot error, component failure, weather, or something else caused this tragedy remains to be seen.  In the near term, it is a sad reminder both of the general safety of airplane flight and the ultimate cost of life when operations fail.