Small Plane Crashes
Attorneys Representing Small Plane Crash Victims
Most small planes are operating under general aviation rules. General aviation
refers to flights outside of a commercial context, including, for instance,
smaller aircraft and private jets. It encompasses all non-airline and
military travel, including privately-owned aircraft,
air ambulances, crop-dusting aircraft and non-commercial helicopter flights.
If you or a loved one was injured in a small plane crash or other type
aviation accident, you need an attorney with experience in pursuing claims against private
pilots, manufacturers, and other negligent third parties. At Wisner Baum,
we have successfully handled
wrongful death and catastrophic
personal injury claims stemming from small plane crashes on behalf of victims and their families.
Contact us at (855) 948-5098 today for a free consultation on your small
plane crash lawsuit.
How Often Does a Small Plane Crash Occur?
While plane crashes are overall rare occurrences, the vast majority of
loss of life and serious injury occurs on a private or general aviation
flight involving few, if any passengers. In studies performed by the NTSB,
general aviation accidents are far more common than commercial aircraft
accidents. For example, in 2011 the NTSB found that 94 percent of all
fatal aviation accidents involved a small plane crash.
While the numbers of commercial airline accidents in the United States
have declined greatly in the last decade, the number of small plane crashes
has remained steady, resulting in at least one small plane crash per 100,000
According to LiveScience, if you compare flight hours per small plane crash to driving hours per
fatal car crash, a trip on a private plane could be 19 times more dangerous
than your average car ride.
General aviation accidents are more common than
commercial airline accidents because they do not have the same internal protections or technologies
used in commercial airliners. Accidents require a thorough investigation
and an experienced aviation attorney to pursue an investigation against
all potential defendants.
What Causes a Small Plane Crash?
The reasons for the greater number of small plane crashes are many. In
our experience, they can be boiled down to a few main areas in which private
planes or helicopters differ from large commercial or military aircraft
Some of the main causes include the following:
Many pilots of private planes or helicopters do not fly professionally.
A person can become certified to pilot a general aviation aircraft after
a relatively small number of flight hours (a minimum of 40 hours). They
are also commonly certified to fly only in visual meteorological conditions,
which means, they can only fly in clear weather that allows them to pilot
the plane or helicopter without the use of instruments on board.
Unless a pilot takes additional training to earn an “instrument rating”,
and stays current with that training, a sudden encounter with bad weather
can be fatal because the pilot may not be equipped or trained to handle
the aircraft in such conditions. Moreover, even if the pilot is fully
trained and current, the airplane he or she is flying might not have the
necessary instruments for flying in bad weather Currently, pilot error
is counted as the number one reason for a small plane crash, with bad
weather serving as a top contributor in those crashes.
The FAA does not mandate that general aviation pilots carry liability insurance.
This may come as a surprise to most people and it is often the cause of
many legal issues after a small plane crash. If private pilots were required
to carry insurance, the insurance carriers would require more training
than the FAA regulations demand. Lack of insurance creates a very real
problem for small plane crash victims and their families. Even when a
general aviation aircraft does carry insurance, it is very often limited
to a very inadequate $100,000 per seat.
Many pilots of private planes or helicopters have no insurance to cover
injuries to passengers or people on the ground. In cases where
planes crash into houses, those harmed on the ground may have no way to pay for the damages to
their home, let alone any injuries or deaths that resulted from the accident.
Similarly, if the small plane crash kills or severely injures passengers,
there may be extreme limitations in the ability to get proper compensation
for the losses, if the pilot lacks insurance.
Small planes don’t have many of the fail-safe systems that make flying
in a commercial airliner safer. There are relatively few single-engine
planes in use by commercial airlines, but single engine planes are very
popular in general aviation flights. Thus, a bird strike or engine malfunction
that would cause the loss of an engine is a problem that can be dealt
with by a large plane with more than one engine, but a recipe for immediate
disaster in a single-engine plane. Furthermore, many of the technological
instruments that come standard in a commercial airliner are absent from
a smaller plane.
The maintenance done on a small plane can be shoddy and can overlook certain
necessary elements if the maintenance crew is unfamiliar with that particular
type of aircraft. This problem can be magnified because a very large percentage
of the general aviation fleet is more than 30 years old. Also, many of
the safety updates that have been made to large planes have not necessarily
translated to small planes in manufacturing or general use. In fact, a
USA today investigation found that defective parts and dangerous designs have been the cause of
many small plane crash injuries and deaths, but the manufacturing companies
have covered up known problems and even sometimes lied to federal regulators.
Airport and Traffic Controllers
Large commercial planes enjoy large airports, with multiple air traffic
controllers watching for problems, while private planes almost always
use small airports, including some that might not even have paved runways.
General aviation flights often come and go from airports and heliports
that have few or no air traffic controllers, no formal flight plans scheduled
and often far less ability to properly communicate with other aircraft
in the surrounding area. Commercial flights almost always land and take-off
at airports that have air traffic control towers and multiple staff members
charged with preventing mid-air collisions, runway incursions and excursions,
and the ability to assist during emergency situations.