Could it be Pilot Error in Yemenia Case?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
By George Hatcher

I am not an attorney, however, I have a lot of experience with aviation crashes. I am watching the investigation here with great interest. I am a consultant/advisor/strategist to the U.S. law firm working this case with a French attorney firm. In terms of the investigation, relatively speaking (in terms of the length of time that is normally spent on crash investigations), it is still early days, and in my opinion, things could still go in another direction or many directions.

If preliminary investigations about the Yemenia crash head where they appear to be heading, then a primary cause of the crash is pilot error. Yes, weather may have been a factor, but the stress of dealing with the weather appears to have unnerved the pilots to the point where they botched landing the Airbus A310 on June 30 of this year, in the Comoros. It looks to investigators as if the pilots lost their orientation.

The flight data recorders have been recovered for this flight, but it is reported that there is a problem extracting the information. Bad weather and the primitive airport only seem to have exacerbated the main issue, which seems to have been pilot error, at least according to the initial investigation.

Investigators looking in detail at what happened that night at the Moroni Airport say that pilots failed to correctly line up the plane with the runway while being buffeted by storm winds, that the pilots lost control.

Investigators believe that the pilots became confused, lost sight of the horizon and failed to regain altitude.

If the cause is found to be pilot error, it could be good for the families who are awaiting compensation from the operator Yemenia Airlines.

Lawyers tell me that pilot error raises the maximum limits set out by International Aviation law (Warsaw) in this particular case and that (raising maximum limits), in my opinion, is good for the families of victims. The biggest tragedy is that no amount of money will bring back the loved ones who perished in this crash, but the push should be on to maximize the value of the human lives lost. With pilot error now in the picture, the limits of Warsaw in so far as Yemenia are concerned will be set aside as the attorneys for the victims work out each individual claim. Families have the right to maximize the value of the case. Even after the case is won, the loved ones will still be lost.

But let’s not just beat up the pilots. Look what they have to work with. If we look back at the A-310’s history, it does not appear to be the world’s best designed aircraft. Take, for example, the rudders. Many Airbus passenger jets are made of composite plastic that appears dangerously prone to disintegration. In March 2005, after taking off from Varadero, Cuba, the rudder came apart on a Canadian A310 airliner. The NTSB has raised questions about maximum capabilities, or “limit load” of Airbus series 300 rudders.

However, in the Yemenia crash, Investigators are looking at the cockpit for answers. The crew tried to react, but with the stress factors of the weather, pilots appear to have made various incorrect adjustments to the flight controls that investigators believe complicated their problems.

Families should not stop with only the operator YEMENIA Airline. Every factor should be considered, eventually. Families should find all possible defendants that could have contributed to the accident. Lost family members deserve it. An expert aviation attorney will do this on behalf of the family. An expert aviation attorney runs his own investigation, and does not fully depend on the official investigation. An expert aviation attorney will leave no stone unturned on the client’s behalf.

In fact, in my opinion, the case may eventually go in to investigating the mechanisms and technology, especially given airbus history. A good investigation pursues all avenues, and as I already stated, it is still relatively early in the investigation. We must keep an open mind because there is no telling at this point whether investigations (both the official ones and the attorneys’ behind the scenes investigations) will turn up failed components, which would result in additional defendants, and more filings in the most appropriate available forum. However, the immediate focus is the push to bring Yemenia Airlines to the negotiating table (either amicably or through the French courts.) The groundwork is already being laid to expedite the process of individual evaluation of each claim.

The families should know they aren’t in this alone; they can be wise and thoughtful about making the choice. In my opinion, they should not hire hire just any lawyer, nor the first lawyer to file a case. For more about hiring an aviation experienced lawyer, follow this link.

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