Aircraft Vehicle Malfunction Causes Fatal Injury


Mechanical Engineering ExpertThis case involves an accident with an aircraft deicing vehicle in winter. The vehicle operator was applying deicing fluid to a commercial plane before a 6-hour cross-continental flight. While the operator was working, a bolt holding a hinge pin slid out causing the vehicle to fall several feet. The vehicle’s door unlatched during the fall and operator was thrown from a 15-foot height. The operator suffered a traumatic brain injury from the fall impact and subsequently succumbed to his injuries.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. What is your familiarity with airplane deicers?
  • 3. Is there a safety mechanism that could have prevented the accident? Please explain.

Expert Witness Response E-022725

I have worked on similar cases analyzing airport mechanical equipment such as baggage transporters and conveyors and a collapse of the passengers jet way. I have been hired in the past to test and analyze jetway malfunctions and collapses for a major airline, as well as review injuries caused by baggage transportation vehicles. I have analyzed hundreds of industrial equipment malfunctions as a result of defective design, pool maintenance, or misuse. I am familiar with industry safety standards and practices and have been qualified in state and federal court as an expert in hundreds of cases.

I am familiar with deicing aerial devices. They are industrial trucks with hydraulic boom (or telescoping spraying arm) with either an enclosed or open bucket. The operator is either standing or sitting in the bucket and uses a Tips Ice Control Nozzles to apply water/glycol fluid at temperatures up to 200° F to the aircraft’s exterior surfaces to remove frozen precipitation from the aircraft’s fuselage, landing gear, and wing surfaces. This helps to prevent ice and snow from adhering to the wings of the aircraft. There are many specific safety devices which would have prevented this accident, such as the use of a double latch or recessed (well) in the door to prevent unintentional operator’s contact with the door handle. This accident could also have been avoided by securing the pin holding the hinge using cutter pin or treaded end of the pin.

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