Unsafe Runway Causes Fatal Crash

    Aviation Expert WitnessThis case takes place in Texas and involves a man who died while performing his duties as a pilot. On the day of the accident, the pilot was approaching the airport and while concentrating on maneuvering, struck a radar tower that hade been recently built near the approach to the landing strip. It is alleged that the pilots employer did not have the right safety markers, spotters, and other aviation safety features in place to prevent an accident like this from occurring. It is further alleged that the radar tower was built in a location that posed a direct threat to landing pilots. Expert witnesses on aviation appraisal, airport management and aerospace engineering were sought to opine on the issue.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. Are you familiar with the types of safety mechanisms that should be used to prevent accidents?
    • 2. What type of markers, spotters should be on ground to assist the pilot in avoid dangerous obstacles in air?
    • 3. What duty does an aviation company have to provide their employees ( pilots) with the necessary safety options?

    Expert Witness Response E-009401

    This case is right in my area of expertise and I am glad to assist. The type of systems would include but not limited to adherence to the FAA AC on marking for landing zones for rotorcraft. The markings are well understood and also include the the Operator’s Operations Specification (see 14 CFR part 135). A prudent operator would also have a Safety Management System (SMS). An SMS would require the operator to fully identify the risks and hazards and to apply mitigation measures. The SMS would also require the use of ground crew as determined during the risk assessment. An FAA certificated operator would have to provide training, procedures and appropriate internal qualities systems to insure compliance with documentation. I have reviewed numerous accidents and incidents where the appropriate prudent use of an SMS would have prevented both injuries and death. My experience as a pilot, regulator and safety VP have provided me with excellent qualifications in the realm of safety oversight and operations. I was the Government Co-chair of the International Helicopter Safety Team (IHST). The IHST had as its number one operations priority implementation of SMS by operators. I also implemented the first SMS at a major rotorcraft manufacturer including flight operations.

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