Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oxford Aviation defaults on lawsuit, court rules: Cessna 441 Conquest II, N383SS

Peter L. McGuire,  Sun Journal

Thursday, September 19, 2013

OXFORD — The U.S. District Court in Portland has entered a default against Oxford Aviation, at the request of plaintiffs in two lawsuits claiming negligent and reckless actions by the company.

The parties are seeking damages from an emergency landing after a piece of the tail of the airplane they were flying on May 31 broke off during a descent into Colorado Springs (Colo.) Airport.

The suits claim Oxford Aviation failed to put the plane back together properly after painting it.

In two motions for default, filed with the court on Sept. 18, attorney for the plaintiffs Daniel A. Nuzzi said Oxford Aviation failed to file a response to the complaint within 21 days of being served with a summons on Aug. 27.

By granting the request for default, the plaintiffs can move forward to request a default judgment from the court, which likely will schedule a hearing to assess damages in the case.

"When you don't answer a complaint, then it's on the other party to ask for entry of default, which basically results in the facts being admitted," said David Bertoni, a lawyer who is working with Nuzzi on the cases.

Oxford Aviation still has an opportunity to file a motion to set aside the default, according to a case manager at the court.

A phone call to Oxford Aviation owner and President Jim Horowitz of Casco at the company's headquarters at the Oxford County Regional Airport was not returned Thursday afternoon. 

Joseph Skilken & Co. and Karen Skilken, both of Columbus, Ohio, filed separate lawsuits against Oxford Aviation in Maine U.S. District Court on Aug. 21.
Bertoni said it was relatively unusual for a company to not respond to a suit filed against it.

"Ordinarily, a business takes lawsuits seriously," Bertoni said. "This is two lawsuits in U.S. Court. One would think you'd pay attention to that and want to answer, so it's unclear what's going on."

He noted that numerous efforts by the Skilkens and their attorneys to contact Oxford Aviation, even before the lawsuit was filed, have been unsuccessful.

"There's basically been radio silence," Bertoni said.

The next step in the process will be to file a judgment of default and move on to address the amount of money the Skilkens will be looking for in damages, Bertoni said.

A case manager for the court in Portland said the plaintiffs have until Oct. 18 to file a request for default judgment from the court.

The plaintiffs allege that Oxford Aviation was hired to paint a Cessna 441 aircraft owned by Joseph Skilken & Co. and failed to put the plane back together properly.

According to the lawsuits, a piece of the plane's tail, which was not properly attached, broke off in mid flight as the aircraft, piloted by Steven Skilken, 63, descended into Colorado Springs Airport on May 31.

His wife, Karen Skilken, the couple's two daughters, and Karen Skilken's mother and father were passengers in the plane when the incident occurred.

The lawsuits allege that it was only due to Steven Skilken's extraordinary efforts that tragedy was averted.

In interviews with the Sun Journal last month, the couple described the emergency landing as a terrifying, near-death experience.

In her suit, Karen Skilken claims Oxford Aviation's actions and inactions servicing the Cessna were "so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and were atrocious and utterly intolerable."

She is suing the company on counts of negligence and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Joesph Skilken & Co. is suing on the grounds of breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent representation.

Original article:

FAA restores Oxford Aviation’s repair license

Ohio couple sues Oxford Aviation

OXFORD — An Ohio couple who claim to have had a near-death experience because of shoddy work done by Oxford Aviation has filed a lawsuit in Maine U.S. District Court seeking at least $200,000.

Joseph Skilken & Co. and Karen Skilken, both represented by Brann and Isaacson, a Lewiston law firm, filed separate lawsuits against Oxford Aviation on Aug. 21

The lawsuits allege that “negligent and reckless” actions by Oxford Aviation resulted in a May 31 emergency landing of a Cessna 441 aircraft at the Colorado Springs (Colo.) Airport.

According to the suits, Oxford Aviation failed to fasten and attach a portion of the Cessna’s tail section after repainting the aircraft, causing it to fall off during flight.

The company, located at the Oxford County Regional Airport on Number Six Road in Oxford, paints, refurbishes and maintains aircraft.

Reached at his office Friday, Oxford Aviation owner and President James Horowitz of Casco declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Steven Skilken, 63, was piloting the Cessna with five family members from their home city of Columbus, Ohio, to Colorado Springs when a section of the airplane’s tail broke off, sending it into a “violent yawing oscillation” as it was coming in for a landing, the suit alleges.

Due to Skilken’s “extraordinary efforts” a tragedy was averted and the aircraft landed with only one passenger, Karen Skilken, sustaining minor injuries, the suit alleges.

In a phone interview Thursday, Steven Skilken said he hired Oxford Aviation in early May to repaint the Cessna in advance of a trip to Las Vegas with his family for Karen Skilken’s 50th birthday.
The aircraft is owned by Joseph Skilken & Co., his real estate company.

Skilken said he had never dealt with the company but was impressed by their website and facilities. He was assured by Horowitz that the job would be completed by May 29, he said.

The job wasn’t finished by the agreed date and Steve showed up at Oxford Aviation’s hangars on the morning of May 30 to find the plane “in pieces all over the place,” he claims.

Aside from the fact that it was late, the paint job was poorly done and because of the delays, Horowitz agreed to take $13,000 off his bill, Skilken said.

At about 5 p.m. he finally took a test flight with one of the mechanics and, satisfied that the plane was safe, flew it home to Columbus, Ohio.

The next day, he said, he loaded up his two daughters, ages 9 and 12, his wife, and parents-in-law and took off for Colorado Springs. During the flight nothing seemed out of the ordinary, until the plane hit some turbulence at 15,000 feet as it descended into Colorado Springs, he said.

In an instant, the six occupants were suddenly holding on for their lives as the aircraft kicked and bucked underneath them, Skilken recounted.

“It was like being in a clothes dryer on the tumble setting,” he said.

The violent twisting was so jarring it tore onboard tables out of their housing and exploded the toilet, spraying blue fluid inside the cabin, the suit alleges.

Karen Skilken, in an interview Thursday, said the various parts of the cabin were flying through the air as the plane bucked up and down. Unhinged components flew across the cabin, narrowly missing the passengers. One of the tables came within 4 inches of her 9-year-old daughter’s throat, she said.
“I truly thought we would die,” she said.

Through it all, her husband remained calm, she said. Somehow, he was able to right the plane and bring it down safely on the runway.

A veteran pilot with more than four decades of experience, Steven Skilken said he got his pilot’s license when he was 19 years old.

Looking through the windshield, all he saw was sky, trees and desert as the plane, directionless, spiraled through the sky, he said.

“I don’t know how I did it, but I did it,” he said.

A flight controller later told him the aircraft looked like a moth, flipping and flopping as it fell to the tarmac, he said.

Skilken remembered his 12-year-old daughter, who was sitting next to him in the cockpit, looking up and asking if they were going to die.

“I just said, ‘Be quiet, honey,’” he recounted.

His daughter spoke to him one more time during the harrowing descent, asking him to turn off the XM radio that was piping Ke$ha’s “Die Young,” into her earphones, he said.

That Skilken was able to land the plane at all shocked a representative from the FAA who was at the scene, he said.

“He told me I needed to buy a lottery ticket, I was so lucky,” Skilken said.

Photos of the aircraft provided by Skilken show surprisingly slight damage from the emergency landing, including a chipped propeller and a blown tire.

John McGinley, a representative from the Colorado Springs Airport, confirmed that a Cessna 441 with six passengers and the same tail number as the Skilkens’ declared an emergency and landed at the airport on May 31.

He said the pilot was unable to maintain altitude, but McGinley could not comment further.

Months later, the family hasn’t recovered from the terrifying experience. Karen Skilken said she was uncomfortable flying and Steven Skilken reported that his 9-year-old was afraid to fly.

In her suit, Karen Skilken claims Oxford Aviation’s actions and inactions servicing the Cessna were “so extreme and outrageous as to exceed all possible bounds of decency and were atrocious and utterly intolerable.”

She is suing the company on counts of negligence and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Joesph Skilken and Co. is suing on the grounds of breach of contract, breach of warranty, negligence, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent representation.

On Thursday, Steven Skilken said he wants Oxford Aviation to pay for the approximately $200,000 damage to the plane, as well as a full refund for the work it did.

In addition, he may be seeking damages for the costs to his business. Skilken said he frequently uses his plane to transport clients and has had to hire charter flights since the Cessna has been out of service. According to its website, Joseph Skilken and Co. rents property in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Florida.

He said multiple calls to Oxford Aviation from himself and his attorneys made in the past three months had not been returned.

According to proof of service documents from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office, Horowitz was issued a summons, on behalf of his company, from the court for both suits on Aug. 27.
Oxford Aviation’s repair certificate was suspended by the Federal Aviation Administration in July and restored on Aug. 19. According to the agency, the license was restored following a management review of the company.

“I’m amazed that they are allowed to have their license,” Karen Skilken said.

On Friday, FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac said it was probable that the agency was looking into the incident, but she did not confirm an investigation.

Original article:
FAA restores Oxford Aviation’s repair license

OXFORD — Oxford Aviation has resumed full repair and maintenance operations one month after its federal repair certification was suspended.

In a statement released Aug. 21, FAA spokesperson Arlene Salac said the agency restored Oxford Aviation’s Operations Specifications on Aug. 19, after reviewing the company’s management personnel.

Operation specifications refer to Oxford Aviation’s Part 145 Repair Certification, required to preform structural and mechanical repairs and aircraft maintenance.

The company specializes in interior and exterior aircraft painting and refurbishment as well as maintenance and repairs.

“The FAA completed a review of Oxford’s management personnel, including its newly hired Director of Maintenance,” Salac said in the statement. “This action allows the company to resume preforming aircraft maintenance.”

On Friday, Oxford Aviation President Jim Horowitz said the brief suspension of the company’s certification was the result of a policy adjustment from the FAA’s Flight Standards District Office in Portland relating to how aircraft maintenance companies report changes in management and personnel.

“We made a position change within senior management, and the procedure we used to achieve that was no longer an approved method,” Horowitz said.

The suspension of its certification put the company’s work schedule slightly behind, but the delay wasn’t serious, Horowitz said.

Although he was unaware of the policy change at the time, Horowitz said Oxford Aviation is fully briefed on future expectations.

“We know how to do that going forward, and we will use the new process and method in any changes in staffing and employee position changes, and it won’t happen again,” he said.

“Now we are in good standing with the FAA and we are fully confident we will stay there.”

The company, which has been in operation since 1989, employs 60 people at its 40,000-square-foot space at the Oxford County Regional Airport, off Number Six Road in Oxford.

Original article: