Sunday, July 7, 2013

Fatal Airline Accident in San Francsico

Just last year, on February 11, 2012, the New York Times reported that "it will be four years on Tuesday since the last fatal crash in the United States, a record unmatched since propeller planes gave way to the jet age more than half a century ago. Globally, last year was the safest since 1945, with 23 deadly accidents and 475 fatalities, according to the Aviation Safety Network, an accident researcher. That was less than half the 1,147 deaths, in 42 crashes, in 2000."

This weekend was a jolting reminder of how safe airline travel has been in this country.  The  news cycle was dominated by headlines of an Asiana Airlines 777 airline crash landing in San Francisco.  (Incredible (but graphic) video here.)

San Francisco has been a safe airport historically and it is not clear that weather played any factor in this accident.  Nor is it clear what role pilot error played amid initial reports that the airliner was given go-around instructions.

That said, any speculation is unwarranted at this point as the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the "probable cause " of the accident.  It may take years for such a report to issue.  For now, however strange it might seem, there is some solace to take away from the photo above.  It could have been much, much worse and the fact the airplane still looks like an airplane offers support for how jumbo jets are manufactured today.

Invariably, aviation accidents involve rights that are vindicated in courts and this tragedy highlights the international character of aviation law like few other areas of the law.  Aboard the airplane were citizens of South Korea, the United States and elsewhere.  An intricate set of treaties and laws, including the Warsaw Convention, Montreal Convention, and individual state rights will be at play should any wrongdoing be alleged and prove here.