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Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 – Boeing 737 Max and the FAA

by Apr 17, 2019Crashes

The Boeing 737 Max debacle has brought another very serious issue to the attention of the flying public. This issue has been one that we at Katzman, Lampert, and Stoll have been contending with for decades and it concerns the cozy relationship that exists between the Federal Aviation Administration and manufacturers. The Boeing 737 Max matter is not the first time this issue has been forefront in aviation. It has been the source of strife between the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA, and manufacturers for years. The concept of “self certification” has been a reality for decades. The FAA’s delegated option authorization process allows the manufacturer to sit in the shoes of the FAA and certify compliance with regulations. It is the classic fox watching the henhouse syndrome. But even where the DOA process was not used, there is still a cozy relationship between the FAA and manufacturers.

In 2008 the United States House of Representatives condemned the FAA for having too cozy of a relationship with one aircraft manufacturer. This matter concerned allegations that the FAA rushed to issue a type certificate for the Eclipse EA-500 jet despite safety concerns with the design and manufacturing of the aircraft. After reviewing the allegations and record, members of Congress found that the FAA permitted exceptions to its usual design certification process before significant design problems were resolved. This cozy relationship went as far as to be characterized by the House members as an “IOU” where the FAA would certify in exchange for a promise that the manufacturer would eventually try to meet the design standard at a later date. When the Eclipse was certified it completed only 23 of the 65 required tests for certification! Consider some of the quotes taken directly from the report:

“FAA awarded Eclipse a production certificate even though the company failed to demonstrate the ability to replicate the approved design”

“Senior FAA management identified Eclipse as a priority certification and appeared to be lenient with the manufacturer”

“the FAA may have been more intent on promoting aviation and new technology than it was with its safety oversight mandate.”

“However, when the findings and assertions uncovered in this investigation are viewed in total, there is adisturbing suggestion that there was a “cozy relationship” and reduced level of vigilance on the FAA’s part during both the [type certificate] and [production certificate] approval process of the EA 500.”

Take the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as another example. That aircraft was supposed to be the state of the art revolution in what commercial airliners could become. However, lithium-ion battery ignited a fire in a Japan Airlines 787 Dreamliner causing an emergency landing. This ultimately led to the full scale grounding of the aircraft fleet. But it was Boeing’s political clout that resulted in the problem. During test flights of the Dreamliner in the certification process, there was an electrical failure and an emergency landing. //www.theguardian.com/business/2013/jan/18/boeing-787-dreamliner-grounded

In 2005, the FAA performed a special certification review of an aircraft piston engine manufacturer’s certification after a series of crankshaft failures. The review team found that the manufacturer had not been properly disclosing major and minor design changes to its engines. View the report here.

We at Katzman, Lampert and Stoll are presently at the forefront fighting against the cozy relationship between manufacturer and FAA. We are presently before the United States Supreme Court on a matter where the manufacturer is attempting to gain immunity from lawsuits for death and injury by virtue of having received an FAA type certificate. This immunity would extend all the way to Boeing for the deaths of those innocent people in Ethiopia and Indonesia and it would apply even when a manufacturer self certifies!

5 Reasons to Choose KLS

Hundreds of Millions Obtained on Behalf of Our Clients
Here are a few examples of recent verdicts and judgments from jury trials we have conducted: twelve million three hundred thirty three thousand five hundred dollars ($12,333,500.00) arising from a trial in Texas in Hanak v DynCorp, involving a crash due to faulty maintenance of a U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter in Italy; fourteen million fourteen thousand five hundred and 16/100 dollars ($14,014,500.16) from a trial we conducted in Maryland, in Parsons, et al. v. Midwest Air Traffic Control Services Inc., et al. involving a midair collision; and, fifty four million dollars ($54,000,000.00) involving the crash of a Boeing 747-400 aircraft in Bagram, Afghanistan, as noted above. This is a sampling, as we have been taking cases to trial for many, many, years.

Successful Litigators
We have a long history of successful adversarial litigation with Boeing. Our cases against Boeing in particular, and specifically with regard to design problems in its 737 aircraft, include the representation of many clients reaching back to the crash of United Airlines flight 585, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on March 1, 1991, and the crash of USAir flight 427 while on approach to land at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 8, 1994. Both of those crashes involved a single-point design failure that caused a rudder reversal, leading to crashes of both 737 aircraft. In the lawsuits arising from both of those crashes, our firm was appointed by the federal courts to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, to lead the litigation.
We also represented several clients and served on the Steering Committee arising from the crash of TWA flight 800 on July 17, 1996. That case involved a design defect in the center fuel tank of a 747 aircraft, leaving it susceptible to explosion from spontaneous combustion.
More recently we have litigated with Boeing on product liability and negligence claims involving the 747-400 crash of National Airlines flight 102 at Bagram Airport, Afghanistan, on April 29, 2013. That crash involved improper loading and restraint of military cargo.

Over 5 Decades Representing the People in Aviation Law Cases
In these past fifty-one years we have handled cases ranging from design and manufacturing defects to pilot error and improper maintenance, involving most of the aircraft types, makes, and models certificated in general aviation and transport category aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration. We have handled cases from trial through appeals up to and including the United States Supreme Court. First and foremost, we are trial lawyers.

Expertise in All Facets of Aviation Law
Our firm employs several consultants, including pilots, aerodynamic engineers, mechanical engineers and materials engineers, who we regularly retain and deploy when investigating and litigating the causes of aviation accidents. In addition, we employ economists and certified public accountants for modeling and projecting economic losses.

Trained and Experienced Pilots
Our firm was founded in 1968 and since its inception has practiced virtually exclusively in aviation law involving product liability and negligence claims causing personal injury and wrongful death. The partners in the firm are pilots. David Katzman holds an Airline Transport Pilot certificate (the highest pilot certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration), and is “type rated” and thus qualified to act as pilot-in-command and to instruct others in several transport category jet aircraft. Bruce A. Lampert is a multi-engine - instrument rated pilot

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