Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman changed its name to Wisner Baum in January 2023.

Aircraft Maintenance Negligence

Aircraft Maintenance Negligence

During our relentless pursuit of justice for victims of aviation accidents over the past few decades, we have seen a disturbing increase in aircraft maintenance negligence. When airlines try to cut costs by outsourcing their maintenance or choose cheaper maintenance providers that might be ill equipped to handle certain types of aircraft, the result can be deadly. Yet even when experienced workers perform maintenance on a plane or helicopter, one skipped step can mean the difference between life and death for those onboard. Unlike a smoking engine or a broken wing, the effects of aircraft maintenance negligence will often go unseen until it is too late.

airplane in a hanger

When Aircraft Maintenance Negligence Costs Lives

January 8, 2003, a small 19-passenger plane took off as scheduled from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. After taking off, the nose of the plane uncontrollably kept rising until the plane stalled. Due to defective maintenance of the elevator control system and center of gravity imbalance, the pilot was incapable of bringing the nose of the plane back down. With the plane pointed straight upward, air could no longer flow over the wings and the plane lost all lift, causing it to plunge to the ground. Everyone aboard Air Midwest Flight 5481 — 19 passengers, pilot, and first officer — died as the plane crashed and erupted into flames.

Planes the size of the Beech 1900 (the plane that carried Flight 5481) are required to undergo a routine, detailed maintenance inspection every 100 hours. In this instance, the plane had undergone a maintenance inspection just days before the aviation accident. However, aircraft maintenance negligence during the inspection led to the death of 21 people aboard the plane. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into this particular plane crash revealed the role that aircraft maintenance negligence played in placing this small aircraft flight — and the passengers aboard — at great risk.

Example of Aircraft Maintenance Negligence

There were several problems that contributed to the Air Midwest 5481 crash. In a maintenance check, just days before the crash, maintenance workers (who were outsourced, inexperienced subcontractors) found that the cables that controlled the elevation were out of adjustment. An inexperienced mechanic adjusted them incorrectly. The mechanics skipped nine steps in the maintenance operation — committing a critical error in making and checking the adjustments made to the cables.

In addition, there were problems with the center of gravity which compounded the problems associated with the aircraft maintenance negligence. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines set forth an average passenger weight and average luggage weight to be used in calculating weight to determine whether a plane is overloaded. However, these average weights had not been evaluated since 1936. Using these outdated guidelines, the plane was declared safe for take-off. However, using the actual weight aboard, the plane was carrying nearly 600 pounds over its capacity. Because the elevation/pitch controls were not functioning properly due to their maladjustment, the captain did not have any chance at avoiding the crash once the airplane lifted off.

"Too many airlines do the absolute minimum to keep their planes flying." -Ron Goldman, aviation accident attorney of Wisner Baum.

The aviation law firm of Wisner Baum, based in Los Angeles, California, represented two families in wrongful death actions against Air Midwest and its maintenance company, Vertex Aerospace (now known as L-3 Communications Aerotech) the companies responsible for the aircraft maintenance negligence in this case. As a result of our client’s fierce determination and our negotiation skills, we obtained a favorable settlement for our clients and an unprecedented apology from the airline to all the victims’ families.

However, Flight 5481 was not the first plane with aircraft maintenance negligence — and, unfortunately, was not the last. Lack of oversight by the FAA and by the commercial airlines themselves has resulted in outsourcing of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) inspections to contractors and subcontractors with limited experience and insufficient inspection oversight. Profits are placed above safety when dealing with aircraft maintenance. In fact, some large airlines outsource approximately ninety percent of their maintenance inspections. As a result, aircrafts that may not be air-worthy are being placed in service, putting the lives of passengers in jeopardy.

Contact Us Today

No Fees Unless We Win
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • +1
    Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your city.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • A Major US Plane Crash $17.5 Million Settlement

    Wisner Baum obtained a $17.5 million settlement on behalf of a client who was killed in a major U.S. plane crash.

  • A Major US Plane Crash $14 Million Settlement

    Wisner Baum obtained a $14 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major US plane crash.

  • Helicopter Crash $12 Million Settlement

    Wisner Baum secured a $12 million settlement for a passenger who was injured in a helicopter crash.

  • A Major Foreign Plane Crash $10 Million Settlement

    Wisner Baum obtained a $10 million settlement for the death of a passenger in a major foreign plane crash.

  • Best Law Firms 2023
    Best Law Firms 2023

    A ranking in The U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” is widely regarded by both client and legal professionals as a significant honor. It is considered the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals anywhere.

  • The Truck Safety Coalition
    The Truck Safety Coalition

    Wisner Baum is proud to be a sponsor of The Truck Safety Coalition, a a group of caring individuals dedicated to reducing the number of deaths and injuries caused by truck-related crashes. Our support enables them to help families and save lives.

  • California Powerhouse
    California Powerhouse

    Law360 recognizes law firms that have a strong regional presence, working on important matters within their home state. “[Wisner Baum] possesses a David v. Goliath-sized slingshot while seeking justice for everyday citizens it believes were harmed or killed through corporate wrongdoing.”

  • Elite Trial Lawyers
    Elite Trial Lawyers

    NLJ and American Lawyer Media honor law firms and attorneys as Elite Trial Lawyers for their cutting-edge legal work on behalf of plaintiffs in practice areas ranging from mass torts to securities litigation.

  • Listed in Best Lawyers
    Listed in Best Lawyers

    Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. A listing in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor, conferred on a lawyer by his or her peers.

  • AV Top Ranked Law Firm
    AV Top Ranked Law Firm

    Less than one-half of one percent of firms across the nation have achieved this ranking. A firm must have a high percentage of lawyers who have achieved the prestigious AV® Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell®.

  • Verdicts Hall of Fame
    Verdicts Hall of Fame

    The National Law Journal inducted Wisner Baum into the Verdicts Hall of Fame for obtaining the $2 billion landmark verdict in the Roundup cancer case of Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto. The verdict was #1 in California and #2 in the U.S. in 2019 and is #9 in American history.

  • Super Lawyers
    Super Lawyers

    Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

  • National Trial Lawyers Top 100
    National Trial Lawyers Top 100

    The National Trial Lawyers Top 100 recognized the law firms of Wisner Baum, the Miller Firm and Audet & Partners with the 2019 Trial Team of the Year award (in the Mass Torts category) for their work in the groundbreaking case of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson v. Monsanto Company.

  • AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated
    AV Preeminent Peer Review Rated

    An AV® rating reflects an attorney who has reached the heights of professional excellence. The rating signifies the highest legal ability, and very high adherence to professional standards of conduct, ethics, reliability, and diligence.

  • Avvo 10.0 Rating
    Avvo 10.0 Rating

    Wisner Baum is proud to have all of its lawyers listed in Avvo, a legal directory connecting people in need of legal services with lawyers and connecting lawyers to lawyers. Eight of our attorneys have earned a 10.0 perfect rating with Avvo.

  • Top Jury Verdict in <br> CA and USA
    Top Jury Verdict in
    CA and USA ranks our $2 billion verdict in Pilliod et al. v. Monsanto as the biggest verdict in California and the second largest verdict in the U.S. in 2019. It is the ninth largest verdict in U.S. history.

  • Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers
    Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers

    Published annually, the Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Consumer Lawyers list recognizes the “best of the best” in this area of the law through nominations, research, and review by a board of their peers.

  • Product Liability Practice Group of the Year
    Product Liability Practice Group of the Year

    In 2020, Law360 honored the law firms ”behind the litigation wins and major deals that resonated throughout the legal industry.” It recognized our success in several landmark cases.

  • Top Personal Injury Jury Verdict in California
    Top Personal Injury Jury Verdict in California

    In 2018, our $289 million Johnson v. Monsanto verdict was the largest personal injury verdict in California. also ranked it #2 among all verdicts in California and #10 in the nation.

  • Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers
    Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers

    The Bar Register is the definitive guide to the most distinguished law firms in America. It includes only those select law practices that have earned the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and have been designated by their colleagues as preeminent in their field.


Firm Reviews

What Our Clients Are Saying
  • I Can’t Imagine a Better Law Firm

    “Multiple lawyers recommended Wisner Baum to me and I have been consistently impressed with the quality of their work.”

    - Best Law Firms Survey
  • They Are About Changing the Systems...

    “Wisner Baum are not only amazing attorneys but more importantly, they are activists. They are about changing the systems which got us into trouble in the first place. They understand their role in the process of making change.”

    - Kim Witczak
  • Top Legal Minds in the Country

    “The Wisner Baum firm has some of the top legal minds in the country; they are driven, determined, trustworthy, ethical and passionate.”

    - From Best Lawyers® Best Law Firms
  • Diligent & Professional Representation

    “Thanks to your efforts I was able to recover from a tragic experience and turn my life around for the best.”

    - W.T.
  • Our Best Interest Was Always Number One on Your List

    “A special thank you to your Spanish-speaking staff for the extra effort put into this case. The language barrier was never a problem, and we are so very thankful to them. Your name holds much respect in our family.”

    - G.C. & C.C