Some Legal Issues about Aviation Accidents

Posted by in Aviation Accidents on Oct 17, 2016

A bomb explosion plus the threat of a second bomb at the Spanish Gran Canaria airport on March 27, 1977, temporarily resulted to many aircrafts needing to be diverted to the Los Rodeos Airport (now called Tenerife North Airport). The crowding of planes in Los Rodeos, however, forced air traffic controllers (ATC) to direct some of the planes’ pilots to park their aircraft on one of two taxiways which, eventually, also got congested.

As the Gran Canaria reopened later that same day, planes originally en route to it prepared to proceed there. Two of these planes were the Pan Am Flight 1736, with 380 passengers and 747s: the KLM Flight 4805, which had 234 passengers and 14 crew members4.

Communications began between these two 747s and the ATC for takeoff instructions. With two taxiways clogged with parked planes, though, the ATC saw the need to assign Runway 12/30 (normally used for takeoffs only), as both taxiway and runway. However, due to the fog that blanketed the airport and the absence of ground radar, the ATC knew only of the planes’ activities and locations through the inputs made by both pilot.

Eight minutes after communications began between the planes and the ATC, an explosion was heard: Pan Am Flight 1736 and 747s: the KLM Flight 4805 collided, killing 583 crew members and passengers in what is now considered as the deadliest accident in aviation history.

Parts of the recorded exchanges revealed two things: (i) the obvious miscommunication between the ATC and the two flight crews; and, (ii) the absence of standardized English phrases that would allow flight crews and ATCs to clearly understand each other. And while many aviation accidents in the past have been blamed on pilots, this tragic aviation accident was blamed on the ATC.

In 2012, he Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) discovered 4,394 errors committed by ATCs from the 132 million flights they handled; 41 of these errors were high risk, meaning, these could have ended catastrophically.

Critics say that the yearly number of ATC mistakes reported to the FAA is far below what is real. ATCs have the primary duty of ensuring safety in aviation activities by keeping planes at a safe distance from each other.

Despite the increase of ATC errors in 2013, which saw about 6,700 situations wherein planes flew nearer each other than allowed in U.S. airspace, it is held that air travel remains to be the safest and fastest means of long distance transportation. But while all studies may point to experts’ concurrence about the safety of air travel, when an accident occurs, the fact that victims and/or their families may be entitled to compensation due to damages resulting from the accident cannot be denied.

Claiming compensation, though, is not easy and airline companies usually make settlement offers to victims or their families during the 45-day rule imposed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) (this 45-day rule prohibits law firms from contacting the victims or their families until the 45th day after the accident). Due to this, many victims, who are not aware of what the law contains regarding aviation accidents, receive settlement offers that are lower than what the law prescribes.

Though the 45-day rule prohibits law firms from contacting the victims or their families, no rule prohibits the victims or their families from contacting a law firm. According to airplane accident lawyers from the law firm Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller & Overbeck, P.A., pursuing the compensation the victim and his/her family deserves, especially if the injury sustained is severe, is necessary as this will help cover the costs of the accident and secure much needed closure.

An airplane accident lawyer may be prohibited from contacting you, but no one prohibits you from contacting one; get in touch with one now and so receive the full compensation that you deserve.

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