Monday, July 20, 2015

Another Alaska Aviation Tragedy: What Happens When the Pilot Dies.

   There has been another Alaska Aviation tragedy.  On Friday, July 17, 2015, a Wings of Alaska flight crashed during an 18 minute flight between Juneau and Hoonah.  The pilot died in the crash with the 4 survivors seriously injured. Newspaper stories include passenger statements about heroic, last second actions of the pilot.

   When a pilot dies in a crash, clients question the purpose of bringing a claim against the deceased pilot's estate.  Here is how I answer those questions.

   Absent certain exceptions, all claims or lawsuits are filed against the Airline.  This is the entity that sold the ticket.  This is the entity that made the promise of safe flight. This is the entity that purchased insurance to protect both itself and the pilot specifically from accidents like this. 

   Pilots working for airlines do not make flight decisions alone.  Every airline has an Operations Manual that controls how flight decisions are made.  The ground crew was as aware of the flight conditions as the pilot. 

  This crash arose out of a short flight under conditions of poor visibility.  Nothing prevented the airline from delaying the flight until conditions improved.  Nothing prevented the pilot from asking that the flight be delayed.  In the end, the pilot crashed into a "granite cloud,"  failing to see and avoid the mountainside into which the aircraft crashed.

  Under circumstances like this, the law imposes a duty on the airline to compensate their passengers for the resulting harms and losses.  You have to play your hand smartly.  See