Following recent settlement of the lawsuits it filed on behalf of the families of several victims of the Lion Air Boeing MAX 8 crash, Nolan Law Group has released the video recreation of the accident flight. The video, which depicts several engine and flight control parameters, belies the contention that the problem with the 737 MAX airplanes was simply angle of attack inputs to the MCAS.
(Chicago, December 19, 2019) Survey Sampling International, now known as Dynata, is being sued for the wrongful deaths of 29 employees of its Philippine affiliate, SSI Philippines, arising from a December 23, 2017 fire in the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) in Davao City, Philippines. The employees were part of a group of 38 young people who were trapped and unable to exit the fourth (top) floor of the building, allegedly due to dangerous working conditions specified in the lawsuit. All of those trapped ultimately died from asphyxia by suffocation according to medical certifications.
The business practices of the US-based Dynata are alleged to have contributed to this tragedy. According to the complaint, Dynata outsourced telephone polling to a call center it operated and controlled in the Philippines in order to lower operational costs and to maximize profit. The complaint further alleges that in those efforts to maximize profit, Dynata and its Philippine affiliate neglected the safety and well-being of the victims.
Specifically, the complaint alleges that the 4th floor was not equipped with a working fire alarm, that the 4th floor was not connected to the fire alarm systems on floors 1-3; there were only two fire exits for the 4th floor which were inadequate for the number of people working in the space; one of the two exits was obstructed by steel lockers placed there; the two exit doors were in an open position allowing them to serve as a path for smoke and gas into the 4th floor; and fire dampers were not installed that would have prevented the rapid spread of gas and smoke to the 4th floor.
Donald J. Nolan and Thomas P. Routh of Chicago-based Nolan Law Group, along with attorney James L. Sullivan of the Connecticut firm of Howard, Kohn, Sprague & Fitzgerald filed the lawsuit today in the Hartford Superior Court. Mr. Nolan noted that “practices such as these endanger foreign workers, as they value profit over human rights and necessities. To corporate executives, they only see numbers and output, bypassing ethics and basic human care.” Mr. Routh further indicated records show that Philippine Fire Safety officials repeatedly warned of these life safety issues, and noted “that had Dynata taken a fraction of the Philippine profits and applied it to fire safety equipment and training, this tragedy would likely have been prevented.”
According to company press releases, Survey Sampling International merged with Research Now on December 20, 2017, days before the tragedy, then announced a new name and brand, Dynata, on January 15, 2019. Mr. Nolan believes this re-branding was designed in part to distance the company from the tragedy it caused, and questions whether Dynata informed its American political clients it was outsourcing these jobs to foreign countries and putting the lives of young foreign workers at risk.
The Ethiopian government recently released its preliminary accident report to the public for the March 10, 2019 accident involving Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. The report included plots of the Flight Data Recorder data and a detailed time history of events including those derived from the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR). Review of this data leaves no mystery as to why the Boeing 737 MAX fleet was grounded weeks ago after the data became available to the investigators and parties to the investigation. The 737 MAX is defective and dangerous in its current configuration and this data reveals the horror the Ethiopian pilots and their passengers experienced.
The accident airplane no sooner left the runway than the Captain’s stick shaker activated due to a single failed angle of attack (AOA) sensor on his side. Upon retracting the flaps and turning off the autopilot the Boeing MCAS system began applying nose-down stabilizer trim due to the failed AOA sensor, and the Captain trimmed against it with his electric trim switch. This cycle repeated until the flight crew recognized the symptoms and turned the stab trim switches to the CUTOUT position per Boeing procedures for runaway stabilizer trim. For some reason however, the crew could not get the mechanical stabilizer trim to work and they were left to hold their aft force on the control columns, with the Captain asking the First Officer to help him hold the high forces.
The flight crew eventually turned the electric stabilizer trim back on to try to relieve their control forces and the MCAS once again made nose-down stabilizer trim inputs until hitting the nose-down limit. The pilots couldn’t hold this much nose-up control force as the airplane had accelerated to 340 knots indicated airspeed, its maximum allowable airspeed.
Tragically, the airplane pitched nose-down and entered its fatal dive, accelerating to 500 knots airspeed and reaching -2 g vertical acceleration before impacting the ground at about 40 degrees nose-down pitch attitude and 20 degrees left-wing-down roll attitude. The airplane likely experienced terrifying high speed Mach buffet vibrations and related sounds of high airspeed as it descended towards the ground – a tragic final 20-second scene of emotional pain and suffering for everyone on the airplane.
Boeing failed to employ a proper and safe engineering process for the 737 MAX MCAS design, system safety analysis, and certification. The consequences are beyond horrific for those on board Flight 302, their families and friends, and the entire public who expect safe airline travel, especially from the modern “MAX” version of Boeing’s venerable 737 series. Boeing should and must be held fully accountable for its failures and all damages suffered by these innocent victims and their families.
Instead of a journey to Mexico City lasting an hour or more, Aeromexico Flight 2431 was in the air for less than a minute after rolling down the runway at General Guadalupe Victoria International Airport at Durango. The airplane rotated to climb and then settled hard onto the earth within a half-mile of the tarmac’s end. Fortunately, all 103 people aboard the 31 July flight survived (some with serious injuries).
The pilots will be available for interview by crash investigators. The flight data and cockpit voice recorders were pulled intact from the wreckage. Crash investigators have a fortuitous wealth of information.
Not how the flight was supposed to end
The 99 passengers are owed an explanation. Others who fly commercial also merit assurances that the crash will not be repeated again anytime soon.
Bad weather, specifically a gust of wind, is attributed to the crash, but much, much more merits airplane investigation by investigators. This appears to be an accident caused by bad judgment — specifically by the pilots but also by air traffic controllers in the airport tower.
Let’s pose the salient questions in sequence as the airplane left the departure gate and positioned itself for takeoff.
Was the airplane behind schedule? If so, the pilots may have been under subtle pressure by the airline to depart. The culture of Aeromexico merits review. Was the number one goal to meet schedule or to meet safety?
On what basis did the tower controller advise Flight 2431’s pilots they were cleared for takeoff? The tower controllers had access to weather radar. They could see the runway right out the tower’s panoramic windows. If gusty, dangerous winds prevailed, the folks in the tower would have seen them.
Were jetliners landing or taking off immediately preceding Flight 2431? Were these airplanes being noticeably bounced around by wind gusts? Did the pilots of these planes report to the tower that the conditions were dicey, if not dangerous?
In the cockpit of Flight 2431, the crew had access to their weather radar; what was on the scope that led them to believe a safe takeoff could be made? The Reverend Esequiel Sanchez, a window seat passenger, recalled that at the time it was raining so hard all appeared blackness outside his window. The same view would have appeared through the cockpit windscreen. Did either the captain or first officer voice any concerns? The essence of what’s called Crew Resource Management (CRM) is for the pilot monitoring to advise the pilot flying that the situation appears unsafe. The tower may have issued clearance to take off, but the flight crew was staring into wind borne and rain splattered blackness.
The pilots could have waited 10 or 15 minutes for the storm to pass, yet Captain Carlos Meyron released the brakes and shoved the throttles of the Embraer 190 twinjet to takeoff thrust. How long had he and the first officer been awake? This was not their first flight of the day. Had they been awake since dawn and were afflicted with sleep-deprived fatigue by the afternoon? Fatigue clouds judgment and can lead to a fixation on carrying out the flight schedule.
The takeoff roll into the windy darkness — the degree of crosswind is one of the significant as-yet-unknown details here — was described by passengers as incredibly bumpy from the start.
The airplane may have been pushed by the down gust back onto the runway three times before finally getting airborne. One assumes here that the airplane was properly configured for takeoff (e.g., flaps set) and that engines were putting out full power (e.g., more than a reduced-power takeoff).
The jet was climbing into an increasing downpour and was being buffeted by downdrafts. The jet smacked onto the earth within sight of the runway’s end.
It is not clear whether or not the order to evacuate came from the cockpit, but flight attendants barked, “Get out of the airplane!”
Passengers were screaming; the airplane was in flames — probably from fuel spilled by the fractured wing tanks which was ignited by the hot engines.
The airport firefighters, ambulances and whatnot arrived at the scene and evacuated all to hospitals. More than 60 people were released quickly, with only minor cuts and abrasions. It is fortunate that the airplane was unable to climb higher or accelerate to a greater speed, as either could have resulted in a greater impact with the ground, with more serious injuries or deaths.
The crash investigators will have to wrestle with a salient question: Why was takeoff under those conditions even attempted?
Chicago-based law firm Nolan Law Group regularly advocates for the victims of aviation disasters and their loved ones. The firm recently helped recover another multimillion-dollar award for the families of three victims of a 2013 cargo plane crash in Afghanistan. The $115.75 million award in Cook County was the 19th largest jury verdict in the United States in 2017.
The details of the crash — captured on dash cam video on April 29, 2013 — were tragic. The defendant in the case, National Air Cargo, Inc., was responsible for loading and restraining two 12-ton and three 18-ton U.S. Marine Corps Mine Resistant Armor Protected (MRAP) vehicles onto a Boeing 747 cargo plane operated by National Airlines. The flight was supposed to take the five MRAP vehicles to Dubai, where they would be loaded onto a sea vessel. Ultimately, the plane crashed and the seven crew members aboard perished.
As plaintiff’s attorney for two of the three victims’ estates, Nolan Law Group gathered and presented evidence to the jury showing that the plane crash and the resulting deaths of the crew members occurred because National Air Cargo, Inc. did not have a sufficient number of restraints or tie-down points in the airplane’s cargo area to safely carry five heavy MRAP vehicles. In fact, evidence showed that the safety equipment on board would only have been sufficient for one of the 12-ton MRAPs — not the five vehicles on board. Making matters worse, the safety straps and restraints that were available were not in good condition and some should no longer have been used at the time of the crash.
As the plane took off from Bagram, Afghanistan after the cargo was improperly loaded, the safety restraints failed, sending one of the MRAP vehicles through the aft bulkhead at the airplane’s tail. Flight control systems and hydraulics were so badly damaged that the flight’s crew wasn’t able to regain control of the plane and it ultimately crashed to the ground, killing all aboard.
The jury returned a total award of $115.75 million for three plaintiffs — including $47.25 million for the Captain’s estate; $43 million for the estate of the First Officer; and $25.5 million for the estate of an off-duty Captain in the cockpit. Each award included $5 million, recognizing the shock, fright and emotional distress the victims experienced in the minutes leading to the plane crash. Following the verdit, these three cases did settle for a confidential amount, as well as the cases for the families of three other co-employees represented by Nolan Law Group.
With more than three decades of experience advocating for victims of serious personal injury accidents and for the families of wrongful death victims, Nolan Law Group has built a reputation for being willing and capable of handling complex cases involving aviation disasters. This recent jury verdict demonstrates the firm’s commitment to pursuing justice.
Nolan Law Group’s founder, Donald Nolan — who along with partner Thomas Routh — represented the estates of the First Officer and the off-duty Captain. “The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Nolan.
A Cook County jury last Thursday night awarded a $115.75 million verdict to the families of three flight crew members who were killed when the cargo plane crashed at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
The plaintiffs filed wrongful death complaints against National Air Cargo Inc. and affiliated company
National Airlines after a Boeing 747-400 it operated crashed, killing all seven crew members aboard.
The plaintiffs alleged National Air was responsible for the April 29, 2013, crash, which was captured on a dashboard video that went viral. The plane was carrying five armored vehicles. They alleged Boeing manuals showed the plane could only haul one of the five vehicles at most and that the vehicles were not tied down with the required number of straps.
Following a 13-day trial, at about 9 p.m. Thursday, a jury awarded $47.25 million to the estate of flight captain Brad Hasler, which had originally been a $54 million verdict but was reduced due to contributory negligence attributed to him.
The estate of first officer Jamie L. Brokaw was awarded $43 million and $25.5 million was awarded to the estate of Jeremy P. Lipka, an off-duty pilot who was in the cockpit. They were all from Michigan.
“The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Donald J. Nolan of Nolan Law Group in a news release. Nolan and his colleague Thomas P. Routh represented the estates of Brokaw and Lipka.
Hasler’s estate was represented by David Katzman and Bruce Lampert of Katzman Lampert & McClune in Troy, Mich. “We’re very pleased with the result,” Katzman said.
The crash happened after a Boeing 747-400 converted freighter was loaded with five mine-resistant, armor-protected vehicles owned by the Marine Corps at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and headed to Bagram en route to Dubai World Airport where the vehicles were set to be loaded onto a ship. They eventually were set to be transported to Yermo, Calif.
Shortly after the plane took off from the Bagram, where it had stopped to refuel, it stalled, took a sharp dive toward the ground, crashed and exploded.
The plaintiffs alleged at least one of the 18-ton vehicles broke away from its restraints, pushing a smaller vehicle through the back bulkhead of the plane and cutting two hydraulic system lines and causing other extensive damage.
According to information from the Nolan Law Group, two “black box” recorders were damaged when the vehicles shifted.
Information from the boxes showed they stopped recording when the plane was 33 feet above ground, at which time the plaintiffs alleged the plane nosed up and entered an aerodynamic stall before it fell to the ground.
According to the release from Nolan Law Group, the U.S. Department of Defense had a multimodal contract with National Airlines to move military equipment from Afghanistan to the United States. National Airlines had a joint venture with National Air Cargo Inc., based in New York, and National Air Cargo Middle East FZE in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to perform the work under the contract.
Of the five armored vehicles loaded on the plane, two of them weighted 12 tons and three were 18 tons. The plaintiffs argued the Boeing plane manual and the manual from Telair International, which was the manufacturer of the cargo handling system used to tie the vehicles down, showed that no more than one of the 12-ton vehicles could be safely transported on the plane.
They further alleged there were not nearly enough straps used to tie down the vehicles and that the straps that were used were in poor condition.
The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on counts of wrongful death and predeath damages. The verdict amounts included $5 million each “for the shock and fright each of the men experienced from the time of takeoff until the time of the airplane’s impact with the ground,” the Nolan firm’s release states.
The suit was filed in Cook County because The Boeing Co. was originally named as a defendant. Boeing and AAR International/ Telair International, which were also previously named as defendants, settled before trial, according to information from Nolan Law Group. Mark A. Dombroff, a Dentons partner based out of Washington, D.C., who represented National Air, declined to comment.
The case was tried before Circuit Judge Lorna E. Propes. The three consolidated cases were Elizabeth Brokaw v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9650; William Thompson v. National Air Cargo, Inc., 13 L 9651; and Robin D. Hasler, et al., v. Natio
Donald J. Nolan was recently interviewed on Springfield’s ABC News 20 regarding an incident which occurred last September that sent more than 180 students from North Mac school to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Five separate lawsuits were filed in connection with the deadly gas exposure.
Donald J. Nolan Re: North Mac school carbon monoxide poisoning
While en route to Düsseldorf, Germany from Barcelona, Spain in March, 2015, an airplane owned and operated by Lufthansa Germanwings crashed into the French Alps, killing all passengers and two pilots. Investigators later discovered one of the pilots–Andreas Lubitz–deliberately crashed the plane into the mountains after locking the other pilot out of the cockpit.
Recently, Lubitz’s employer and operator of the Germanwings airline, Lufthansa, offered financial compensation to relatives of those killed in the crash amounting to 25,000 euros (USD$27,740) per victim. Chicago Aviation Law firm, Nolan Law Group, believes that this offer is completely inadequate and worthy of further appeals for more of a realistic compensation amount.
Joint press conference in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.
Lufthansa has also said they plan to provide 7.8 million euros to pay the educational expenses of children who lost one or both parents in the crash and that the airline will set aside 6 million euros towards “individual support for aid projects of relatives” in the coming months, although exact details of the program have not been revealed.
Why Relatives of Crash Victims Will Need an Aviation Accident Lawyer
While compensation for some of the deceased’s families is expected to be less than $100,000, other relatives could receive millions of dollars because of their nationality.
As explained by aviation litigation attorney Donald J. Nolan: “Compensation amounts are ultimately determined by a country’s unique legal system regarding aviation disaster compensation limits”.
According to a Time Magazine article, a U.S. aviation litigation attorney can get their clients millions of dollars in compensation for either surviving an airplane crash or being the relative of someone who died in an airplane crash. Contrast that to China, for example, where the average settlement for victims of airplane disasters is only around $500,000–and it’s even lower for European victims of airplane disasters.
The Montreal Convention
Compensation for non-U.S. victims and their families of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash will be much less than for American passengers aboard the plane when it crash-landed at the San Francisco airport in 2013, killing three Chinese girls and injuring nearly 200 passengers.
A treaty called the Montreal Convention regulates compensation to people suffering injuries while traveling by air internationally. This treaty prevents non-U.S. citizens aboard Flight 214 from filing lawsuits in U.S. courts, even though the crash happened in San Francisco. Consequently, many victims will not receive adequate compensation amounts they deserve. However, some victims have hired an American airplane crash attorney skilled in navigating complex European and Asian laws to help them get the compensation they deserve.
The Korean Airline Crash of 1997
Director of Litigation Thomas J. Ellis points out the cases of family members of victims killed in the 1997 Korean Airlines disaster who, by filing lawsuits in the U.S., received over 100 times more money than victims suing in South Korea. Asiana, the airline responsible for the 2013 San Francisco crash, claimed they were only obliged to pay $170,000 per passenger, citing the Montreal Convention.
Non-U.S. victims and relatives of victims injured in an airplane crash must endure years of endless litigation, stalling tactics by airline attorneys and, ultimately, out-of-court settlements that are disturbing inadequate and insulting. Enlisting the assistance of an experienced airplane injury attorney working for Nolan Law Group is essential to fighting successfully for the right to receive compensation due to airline negligence.
Too many organizations get serious about aviation safety after the funerals for employees killed in chartered carrier crashes. Illinois State University (ISU) may be the latest to substitute genuine oversight for hope in the reliability of the charter operator.
The aftermath of the crashed flight
On 7 April, 2015, a Cessna 414A twin-engine airplane, operated by Make It Happen Aviation, crashed approximately two miles from its destination, Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, Illinois. The single pilot and all six passengers were killed. Among the victims were the deputy athletics director and the associate head coach of the ISU Redbirds basketball team. Team boosters comprised the other passengers. They were returning from the final four college NCAA basketball tournament in Indianapolis.
The crash occurred shortly after midnight in foggy weather, with light rain and visibility for half a mile. The flight was descending to land, then the ground radar plotted an increase in altitude, suggesting a missed approach or, worse, the pilot’s loss of spatial orientation. In any event, no radio transmissions were received from the airplane about a climbing circle for a second landing attempt. The airplane dropped off radar coverage; three hours later, at approximately 4 a.m., the wreckage and the bodies were discovered by police and firefighters who were called to search the area.
The airport tower had closed at 10 p.m., but it is not unusual — although not necessarily safer — for airplanes to land at airports without trained air traffic controllers in the tower.
A short, one-hour, flight ended in disaster
Coincidentally, on the same day as the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a safety alert titled “Understanding Flight Experience.” The NTSB argued that “Pilots may have many hours of experience” and “Even if operating a specific type of aircraft is allowed by regulations, it does not mean the practice is safe.” The alert cited four general aviation accidents in which experienced pilots nonetheless crashed their aircraft.
The crash in Bloomington is part of the larger pattern of wrecked airplanes and lives cut short.
ISU issued a statement: “Words cannot fully express the grief that is felt in the wake of such a tragedy. We move between shock and profound sadness.”
After a period of grief, ISU may wish to examine Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) grim experience in January 2001. A Jet Express Services aircraft, a Beechcraft Super King Air 200 with twin power plants, was returning from Colorado to Stillwater Regional Airport in Oklahoma. It was one of three airplanes chartered to fly the school’s basketball team home after a game with the University of Colorado at Boulder.
The airplane crashed shortly after reaching cruising altitude. The sole pilot and the nine passengers were killed.
Similar to the crash in Illinois, the event was at night, with a lone pilot flying past his usual bed time in wintry overcast weather. In this case, the pilot was preoccupied with an electrical failure and probably did not sense the airplane’s right descending turn.
The airplane did not have, and was not required to be equipped with, a standby attitude indicator powered from a separate source.
As a source close to the investigation recalled, “The King Air was designed and certificated for single pilot operation and also to a lower certification standard — although the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] would say ‘different’ — than air carriers. Therefore, it does not have some of the equipment found on an air carrier, such as standby instruments.”
“Of course, the issue is that passengers are unaware of the difference in the certification of a King Air versus, say, a B737 [airliner]. They assume it’s all the same,” the source added. That is, if they even think about FAA approval of an aircraft design.
The NTSB investigated the crash of the King Air, as it is now investigating the crash in Illinois of the Cessna light twin.
Many of the findings from the earlier investigation can no doubt be included verbatim in the 2015 crash:
– The pilot was properly certificated and qualified under Federal regulations.
– The accident airplane was properly certified, equipped, and maintained in accordance with Federal regulations. The recovered components showed no evidence of any pre-existing structural, engine, or system failures.
– The accident was not survivable for any of the airplane occupants because they were subjected to impact forces that exceeded the limits of human tolerance.
– Oklahoma State University did not provide any significant oversight for the accident flight.
Fifteen months after the accident, in April 2002, OSU published an eight-page policy regarding athletic team travel, which included athletes, coaches, mascots, managers, etc.
Extracts of this policy may be instructive:
“All air travel, except the use of commercial air carriers, shall be subject to the review of the institution’s aviation consultant.”
“The University will, through competitive proposals, retain an aviation consultant. Such individual or firm must have expertise in operations, safety and certification for the purpose of evaluating the certification and safety records, of charter air carriers, time-share and other aircraft and assure pilot certifications are in keeping with this policy….”
“The institutional aviation consultant shall have final approving authority for approving a firm/aircraft for purposes of this policy.”
“Two pilots will be required …”
“Charter aircraft used according to this policy must be maintained under the appropriate FAA operations specifications….”
“…weight and balance computations using average passenger weights are prohibited. A weight and balance form must be completed for each flight using actual weight figures for passengers…”
The policy goes on in this vein, being very specific. The table immediately below summarizes the impact of the policy:
The Difference an Accident Makes
OSU Athletic Team Travel Policies
Before the Accident Crash occurred the night of 27 Jan. 2001
After the Accident Policies in effect after 22 April 2002
Number of pilots
Copilot optional, depending on weather and/or length of trip. Accident pilot often flew as a single pilot because
OSU athletic staff wanted to use all the seats.
Two pilots required; no exceptions.
OSU pilots required or qualified hired part-time pilots, instrument rated, commercial pilot’s license, minimum of
2,500 hours as pilot-in-command, and 500 hours in multi-engine airplane.
Must be full time pilot with 1st class medical certificate, type rated in airplane to be used, minimum of 200 hours flying in past 90 days, and three instrument approaches and
three night landings in the past 90 days. Copilot must have multi-engine and instrument ratings, including 100 hours in type, 10 hours in past 90 days, and three instrument approaches and three night landings in past 90 days.
Day or night in visual or IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions. Pilot judgment regarding whether conditions were safe for the trip.
All flights operated on IFR flight plan; aircraft may not depart into forecast hazardous weather conditions, including
severe icing, thunderstorms, severe turbulence or wind shear. Passengers cannot enter the cockpit or distract pilots when aircraft is below 10,000
Use of donated aircraft
Permitted. Accident aircraft was donated.
Donated aircraft permitted for coaches and staff but not flights carrying student athletes. Donated aircraft must be
powered by two or more turbine engines — which would rule out piston
Outside, independent advice
Aviation consultant retained to evaluate certification and safety records of charter air carriers, time-share and other aircraft, with final authority for approval.
No specific provisions
An FAA-certified repair station or the manufacturer must perform inspections and maintenance. Maintenance personnel
must be appropriately rated and must have trained within the previous five years
on the aircraft type they are maintaining.
Following the recent crash in Bloomington, chances are that Illinois State University opts for similarly strict policies regarding aviation. Hope is no substitute for prudent oversight.
On Tuesday morning, April 7, 2015, a twin-engine Cessna 414 was recovered after crashing near the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington Illinois. Seven victims of the crash were recovered including Scott Bittner (42), Bittner’s Meat Co.; Terry Stralow (64), a partner in Pub II; Aaron Leetch, (37), ISU deputy director of athletics for external operations; Torrey Ward, (36), associate head coach of the Redbirds men’s basketball team; Thomas Hileman, (51), the pilot; Andy Butler, 40, a regional representative for Sprint; and Woodrow “Jason” Jones, (45), a senior vice president and certified financial adviser at Wells Fargo Advisors.
First responders on the scene
The plane was registered to “Make It Happen Aviation” of Towanda, Illinois. The plane was being piloted by Thomas Hileman, who held a valid flying certificate, had over 12,000 hours of flight time, and had undergone a medical check-up in early February.
At the time of the accident conditions at Central Illinois Regional Airport showed declining visibility and light wind. According to reports, the plane had been in contact with air traffic control in Peoria, which typically handles communication with airplanes after the Central Illinois Regional Airport radio tower closes at 10:00 p.m.
According to Carl Olson, director of the airport, Peoria air traffic control lost contact with the plane just after midnight. Olson also said the pilot did not indicate any trouble and had not made any alterations to the registered flight plan.
While the airport control tower normally closes at night, it is common for planes to land after hours with runway lights illuminated. Pilots also have the ability to remotely indicate they need the runway lights turned on. In a Chicago Tribune report, Todd Fox, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said the pilot had been cleared for an instrument landing on Runway 20 at the airport and that the plane began to climb out of its descent into Central Illinois Regional Airport as if it had missed its approach. According to Fox, if that is what happened, the plane should have climbed and turned west. Instead, according to Fox, it turned east. “The aircraft was seen (on radar) to climb and then descend well on this easterly heading before crashing in a farm field just east of the airport,” Fox said. The final radio communications from pilot Thomas Hileman, as the plane neared the airport, included no sign of distress.
Reports state that the plane went down in a bean field north of Illinois Route 9 off a paved county road. Emergency crews located the plane around 3:15 a.m. The wreckage was found “within one wingspan” of the main fuselage, according to Fox, which should help investigators inspect the aircraft. All seven passengers were found dead still strapped into their seats. All had died from blunt force trauma resulting from the crash, said Coroner Kathleen Davis.
While weather conditions have been sighted as a possible cause of the accident a preliminary report is expected sometime next week. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the accident and a final report will most likely take a year to 18 months to complete.
There have been other unexplained crashes of Cessna 414A aircraft. Back in 2000, a Cessna 414A crashed near Hyannis, MA. Immediately before the crash the pilot had told air traffic control that he lost the artificial horizon on his instrument panel. While a survey conducted by Aviation Consumer says the Cessna 414 twin-engine has a fairly low fatal accident rate (boasting 0.8 fatal accidents for each 100,000 hours of flight time), questions are sure to be asked during the investigation regarding why the plane tuned east instead of west, were the flight control instruments working properly, how many hours of flight time Pilot Hileman had in this particular model and type of multi-engine aircraft and when was his last proficiency check?
Compliance with Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins
In an article titled: “Cessna 414 Used Aircraft Report: Buying Before Extinction,” written by Peter A. Bedell, AOPA Pilot, Bedell states that the Cessna’s 414 is among a large group of aircraft headed for extinction. However, he notes, the market for these airplanes remains active.
Bedell states that early 414s can be recognized by their tip tanks and stubbier nose. In 1976 Cessna redesigned the 400 series beginning with the 421. The changes eventually made their way to the 414 in 1978 and it was renamed the 414A Chancellor.
The redesigned airplane had a wingspan that was 4.5 feet longer and a nose extending nearly 3 feet. The fuel capacity reached 206 usable gallons, and the fuel system was made simpler with an On/Off/Crossfeed valve for each engine. Previous 414s had as many as six tanks and made for difficult fuel management. Continental’s TSIO-520-J powered the original 414s, while the TSIO-520-Ns pulled the 414A. Both models were rated at 310 hp at 2,700 rpm. Since most of these airplanes are operated in the unpredictable environment of the flight levels, the 414’s engines have had their share of problems. The engines are sensitive and don’t respond well to abrupt throttle movements or casually monitored engine operations.
The engines began life with a TBO of 1,400 hours, which was later extended to 1,600 hours; but, according to many owners, Bedell says, the 1,400-hour figure is a more accurate estimate of the engine’s lifespan.
Given the airplane’s average of logging 200 or more flight hours per year, one could ask if the aircraft owner had complied with most of the engine ADs or service bulletins, such as those requiring replacement of crankshafts made via the airmelt process. Exhaust manifold clamps and elbows have a 100-hour inspection requirement. Finally, a recent AD regarding recurrent inspections of McCauley three-blade propellers covers the 414 line as well.
Limited Load-Carrying Capacity
Although the 414s have a huge cabin-class interior, they have never been a large load hauler. A typically equipped 414A has a full-fuel load of about 500 to 700 pounds, depending on equipment. Although you could fly for about 1,100 miles, you would be able to bring only two friends and a few bags. In a well- equipped airplane weighing in at 5,100 pounds, you could fill the cabin with six people and a little baggage and fly for about 2 hours with IFR reserves. It’s because of this limited load-carrying ability that many operators opt for modifications. Among the questions Nolan Law Group is asking are: how old is the plane? What modifications have been made and how recently? What baggage was on board in addition to the seven occupants?
The Cessna 414A has a large comfortable pressurized cabin. The 414 can carry up to 7 passengers.
As part of its’ own preliminary independent investigation Nolan Law Group has reviewed accident reports compiled by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Reports state there were 46 accidents involving 414s between 1983 and 1993. The pilot has been cited as being responsible for almost every 414 accident, and weather was a common link in the accident chain. However, many accidents that occurred after engine failures involved airplanes loaded far beyond the maximum gross weight and flown improperly with a failed engine (for example, with the gear and/or flaps down). Single-engine rate of climb is listed as 240 feet per minute for the 414 and 290 fpm for the 414A with the gear and flaps up.
The 414’s have a spacious cabin. Unfortunately, the stock 414s have more room than the useful load allows.
The 414 can fly six people on a 2-hour trip in a comfortable pressurized cabin or it can fly two people some 1,200 miles. On the other hand, the big cabin results in an equally big speed penalty.
While many facts and circumstances of the accident remain unknown and the NTSB investigation is expected to take more than a year, attorneys at Nolan Law Group continue to question factors beyond “pilot error” as causal or contributing to this crash. Ultimately, those causes and contributing factors must be analyzed to determine who bears liability for the crash, an analysis that the NTSB is prohibited from making. As a firm concentrating in aviation accident claims, Nolan Law Group routinely monitors accident investigations such as the Bloomington tragedy for similarities, differences and safety trends. The firm handles claims and litigation on behalf of victims and families of victims of aviation accidents ranging from small, general aviation aircraft to large commercial airliners.