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Legal Challenges Precede Official Findings In Aviation Accidents

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A spate of lawsuits has been filed ahead of official conclusions in two high-profile general aviation crashes in the USA.

US car racing conglomerate NASCAR has sued Cessna for what it says was faulty wiring at the time of manufacture in the crash of a 1977 Cessna 310 that killed a company pilot and the husband of a high-ranking executive.

Three people on the ground were killed and four were seriously injured in the 10 July accident, according to the US National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report. The pilots had reported smoke in the cockpit and were attempting to land at Sanford Orlando International airport in Florida. The aircraft had accumulated 4,740h total flight time.

Also late last month, rock musician Travis Barker sued Bombardier, air taxi operator Global Executive Aviation, tyre manufacturer Goodyear and others over the crash of a chartered 2007 Learjet 60 in Columbia, South Carolina on 19 September. Barker and one other passenger survived the fiery rejected take-off crash while two other passengers and the two pilots were killed.

Barker’s suit claims that one or more of the twinjet’s tyres failed on take-off and that the pilots’ attempt to abort the take-off was negligent. The NTSB preliminary report says that investigators found tyre debris, adhesive from a broken taxiway reflector and various components of the aircraft’s braking system along and past the end of the runway.

Preliminary analysis of the right Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305A engine indicated that the engine was running at high power, but its thrust reverser was stowed, and the aircraft’s cockpit voice recorder revealed that the crew initiated the rejected take-off after hearing a “sound consistent with a tyre failure” at 136kt (250km/h), just beyond V1 speed.

Final reports, which are likely to include a probable cause for each accident, often take a year or more to complete. It is unclear if pending legal action could chill otherwise open participation by companies linked to the aircraft and assisting in the investigations.

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