Politician and Son Tragically Die in Plane Crash

    cessna crashThis case involves a well-known politician who was on a flight to test out aerial photography technology with his son. The politician’s son was flying the plane. During the flight, the politician’s son reported problems with the plane’s altitude indicator. Meteorology reports indicated that the weather on the night of the crash was rainy and cloudy. During the flight, two of the plane’s vacuum pumps failed, shutting off power to the plane’s directional gyroscope and attitude indicator. Because of this, the politician’s son was unable to see the plane’s position in the air. The plane crashed 30 miles south of its final destination and the politician and his son were killed. The company that manufactured the plane’s vacuum pump and manifold system had issued three service bulletins that warned pilots that various parts of the system could fail and could cause death, bodily harm or property damage. There had previously been 20 other plane crashes where the same vacuum pumps had failed during flights and caused the deaths of 46 people. The company took years before it finally decided to stop manufacturing the vacuum pumps. The politician’s widow filed a wrongful death suit against the company that manufactured the vacuum pump claiming that they had violated aviation manufacturing regulations since the faulty pump and manifold system caused the plane crash.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Is the manufacturer of a plane’s vacuum pump liable if the manufacturer knew that the pump was defective and had caused previous plane crashes?

    Expert Witness Response

    The manifold system of a plane (and the plane’s vacuum pump) helps control the plane’s directional gyroscope and altitude indicator. These parts tell the pilot what direction the plane is heading in and also tell the pilot if the plane is banking and whether the nose is high or low. If the system fails during a flight, especially where there are dark, stormy conditions, the pilot may be left “flying blind” and disoriented in the bad weather. This can lead to a plane crash. In this case, the manufacturer of the vacuum pump was probably negligent because it had knowledge of previous failures of the vacuum pumps that had caused numerous plane crashes and deaths and failed to provide adequate warnings to pilots of the dangers. Since the manufacturer had itself issued service bulletins that discussed the possibility of death that could occur if the vacuum pump and manifold system failed, the manufacturer was probably negligent in not choosing to fix the problem. Since the manufacturer failed to take immediate action and stop manufacturing the vacuum pumps, it was probably negligent in disregarding the safety of passengers and pilots and is liable for the death of the politician in this case.

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