WHY IN-HOUSE AVIATION INVESTIGATION MATTERS
During the preparation of the aviation law firm’s United 585 and USAir 427 cases, both involving crashes of a Boeing 737, a 737 tail and rudder power control unit sat in Katzman, Lampert & McClune’s hangar. There to investigate the causes of each crash, the aviation attorneys of Katzman, Lampert & McClune put together a test rig to determine how the hydraulics in the rudder power control units worked.
This is just one example of many demonstrating the firm’s use of its engineers, pilots, in-house instrumentation equipment, and the most recent investigation technologies to reconstruct increasingly complex aviation accidents.
Because the firm owns aircraft, our aviation lawyers are able to fly themselves to crash sites, shoot the airport approaches so often questioned by crash site investigators, and study the airports and surrounding areas. Like piecing together a puzzle, such investigative measures are critical to aviation accident reconstruction.
AGING AIRCRAFT ANALYSIS DESIGN LIFE AND OPERATIONAL SERVICE LIMITS
March 17, 2012 – Consideration of the design life and operational service limits of general aviation aircraft is now of paramount importance to safety of flight, the cost of airplane acquisition, the cost of future airplane maintenance and, sadly, post airplane crash investigation. Along with NASA and the DOD, the FAA now jointly sponsors, each year, an Annual Aircraft Airworthiness & Sustainment Conference which succeeds a series of twelve Joint Conferences on Aging Aircraft. These and other conferences address the safety of aircraft operating near or beyond their original design service goal. This is of great concern, since the vast majority of piston and turboprop general aviation airplanes operating today were manufactured by Mooney, Cessna, Beech, and Piper in the 1970s and 1980s. Other so-called “Legacy” airplanes (including corporate jets) that bear consideration were manufactured by Twin Commander, Mitsubishi, Sabre, Lear Jet, Falcon, and Westwind, among others. Cessna is dispatching its engineers to airplane maintenance seminars around the United States to lecture on corrosion and fatigue in its 100, 200, 300, and 400 series airplanes and it is establishing new and far more stringent maintenance, inspection, and repair guidelines for the airplanes it built before 1995. It is likely that the FAA will soon mandate that other manufacturers, including Mooney, Piper, and Beech follow suit.
Factors to consider in aging aircraft analysis include fleet life cycle limits, original design life limits, consideration of materials’ technologies at the time of original manufacture, along with current knowledge of fatigue limits and susceptibility to known areas of corrosion. Research and development, technology transition, and operational fleet experiences contribute to development of solutions, promote incorporating emerging technologies into current operations, incorporate lessons learned, and advance technologies to further enhance design and sustainment practices in the future.
Metallurgical and fatigue failure analysis are a routine part of many general aviation accident investigations and play a predominate role in any ensuing litigation. In aircraft accident investigation and litigation, Katzman, Lampert & McClune routinely employs a metallurgist using the finest privately operated laboratory in the United States. Each airplane crash must be approached with retained experts who use investigative methods that comply with accepted professional standards for airplane crash investigation and using laboratories and facilities that contain state of the art equipment. We possess unique skills acquired from investigating and litigating airplane and helicopter crashes for over forty years, and we rely heavily on these skills as we represent our clients.
The first determination in an airplane or helicopter crash is whether it involved engine failure, structural failure, improper maintenance, pilot error, or a combination of these considerations; and as the airplane fleet continues to age, the focal point of aviation crash investigation will further merge these factors.