Articles Posted in Aviation Accidents/Plane Crashes

The crash of a small aircraft near Vancouver this week is a reminder that Oregon and Washington product safety concerns can apply to large items, like an airplane.

According to The Oregonian a passenger on the small plane died and the pilot was critically injured in the Washington small aircraft accident. Quoting witnesses, the paper reports that the “plane possibly had engine trouble soon after takeoff.” The plane was attempting to return to Fort Vancouver’s Pearson Air Field when it crashed.

As is the case with all air crashes a careful investigation is now under way. The reports of possible engine trouble, however, are an indication that investigators should consider whether the airplane itself was defective. Airplanes, of course, are complicated machines and one must also consider the possibility that there was a maintenance issue involved, or even pilot error. None of this, however, precludes consideration of the aircraft itself.

Late last month a small plane carrying both a student pilot and a flight instructor dove suddenly over Yamhill County, striking and literally slicing to pieces a smaller plane flying at a lower altitude, according to The Oregonian. The pilot and passenger of the descending plane were uninjured, but the pilot of the plane they hit died in the Oregon air crash. Both planes were flying out of Hillsboro, and the midair collision occurred “northwest of Aurora State Airport,” the newspaper reports.

The troubling thing emerging in media reports concerning this Oregon aviation accident is the revelation that this was not the first fatal accident involving students at a particular Hillsboro-based flight school. That fact raises troubling questions, and even the possibility that an Oregon wrongful death claim might eventually emerge from the investigations surrounding the crash.

The earlier fatal Oregon air crash incident, according to The Oregonian, took place when “a company flight instructor and his student died in September 2009 when the helicopter they were flying crashed in a field south of Forest Grove and burst into flames.” Perhaps even more ominously, “investigators looking at the helicopter crash “concluded that the flight crew’s failure to maintain adequate rotor speed resulted in a stall, followed by an uncontrolled descent to the ground.”

Aviation officials are investigating the circumstances of a plane crash that killed three people in Eastern Oregon earlier this month. The small plane was traveling from Dallesport, Washington to Cody, Wyoming when it crashed southeast of Ukiah, according to The Oregonian.

According to television station KPTV, the aircraft carried a pilot and two passengers – two men from Klickitat, Washington and a woman from Hermiston, Oregon. The station reported that the US Forest Service was cutting a makeshift road into the remote area of the crash to facilitate investigations by the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Small plane crashes almost always leave a number of questions in their wake. One must ask, of course, about the weather. But those mourning a loved one in the aftermath of an Oregon small plane crash also need to ask sometimes difficult questions concerning the pilot’s health, alertness level and training. The aircraft itself also bears close scrutiny. Was it properly built and maintained? If the aircraft was being used for business or professional purposes these questions could become especially important in considering whether the specifics of a particular Oregon plane crash meet the standard for an Oregon industrial accident.

A scathing statement released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board cites “a series of improper actions” by a Grant’s Pass, Oregon contractor leading up to a 2008 crash that killed nine firefighters in California. According to a report in The Oregonian, the NTSB’s chairwoman found some actions by the company, Carson Helicopters, “so distressing that the NTSB has alerted the Department of Transportation’s inspector general to investigate in more detail, looking for possible criminal wrongdoing.”

The NTSB statement (see link below) paints a devastating picture of corporate negligence and deception. Referring to Carson, whose helicopters were contracted out to the US Forest Service for firefighting purposes, the NTSB writes: “The contractor’s actions included the intentional alteration of weight documents and performance charts and the use of unapproved performance calculations.”

Though the NTSB also found fault with actions by both the Forest Service and the Federal Aviation Administration, “Carson’s actions were so egregious – so egregious – that they have to go first,” NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told The Oregonian.

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