Friday, October 11, 2013

Neighbors of Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM) sue United Parcel Service after deadly plane crash

To view the full lawsuit, click here.

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Four residents living by a Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport runway have filed a lawsuit claiming damages against the airport authority and United Parcel Service in the wake of the Aug. 14 cargo plane crash that killed both pilots.

The residents claim, among other things, that before the crash an increasing number of flights were directed to Runway 18/36, which they allege is one of the shorter of the airport's runways and more dangerous because of the terrain.

Read lawsuit here
"The airport authority knew, or should have known that the approach on Runway 18 posed a danger to both flight crew of larger aircraft and the surrounding community," the lawsuit states. "Despite this knowledge, it landed more and more planes on this shortened runway."

Both the airport and UPS declined comment on the lawsuit.

"The accident was a tragic situation for UPS, our pilots and their loved ones, and the Birmingham community. However, UPS does not discuss legal proceedings," Mike Mangeot, a spokesman for UPS Airlines, stated in an email.

A spokeswoman for the airport stated they do not comment on lawsuits.

The lawsuit was filed by the Birmingham law firm of Leitman, Siegal, Payne & Campbell, P.C. on behalf of residents Cornelius and Barbara Jean Benson, Christopher Whitfield, and Pamela Yarber. The four are the closest residents to Runway 18/36, near the intersection of Treadwell Road and Tarrant-Huffman Road.

UPS Flight 1354 crashed shortly before 5 a.m. on Aug. 14, just short of Birmingham Airport runway 18/36. The crash killed both pilots on board. 

The lawsuit states that the residents' homes so far have been left out of the homes that the airport has bought as part of its expansions. The lawsuit states the airport commissioned a study in 2005 that identified more than 600 single-family homes, two multi-family homes, three churches and a school that it intended to buy. Since 2009 the airport has bought at least 570 of those properties, the lawsuit states.

The authority has refused to buy the four residents' houses, claiming no planes were routed over their properties, the lawsuit contends. But that wasn't true, the lawsuit states.

"Flights over the (residents') properties increased even more with the shutdown of another runway during the ongoing renovations and expansions to the airport terminals," the lawsuit states. "The planes flying over the Bensons property were routinely so low that Ms. Benson would wave to the pilots as she went to retrieve her morning newspaper." 

The residents also claim the crash damaged their property, has lowered their property values, and has caused them mental anguish. 

According to the lawsuit the Aug. 14 crash: clipped the tops of trees in the residents' yards; debris punched a hole in the roof of Yarber's home and damaged outbuildings on her property; debris damaged a ramped walkway and Cornelius Benson's truck; and took out power lines.

The lawsuit states the empty field where the plane crashed slopes downward before rising steeply and cresting just before the north end of the 7,000-foot-long 18/36 Runway. "In predawn, rainy, and foggy conditions such as the ones existing on the morning of the crash, the hill creates what pilots call a "black hole" which obscures the dangers of flying too low and makes it difficult for pilots to see the target runway."

Larger cargo planes, like the A300 UPS cargo plane in the crash, normally approach the airport on longer runways that are 12,000 feet long, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit states a publicly available NASA report called the approach to Ruway 18 "marginally safe at best" and recommended an unnamed air carrier to discontinue using it.

The lawsuit states the residents have sought treatment for "mental anguish and stress stemming from the crash and the fear that it may happen again."

The lawsuit makes claims against the airport for inverse condemnation for claims regarding property values, negligence, and nuisance. It also makes claims against UPS for negligence and trespass and against both the company and UPS for outrage and mental anguish. The lawsuit does not state any specific claims for monetary damages.

To view the full lawsuit, click here.

NTSB Identification: DCA13MA133
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Part 121: Air Carrier operation of UNITED PARCEL SERVICE CO
Accident occurred Wednesday, August 14, 2013 in Birmingham, AL
Aircraft: AIRBUS A300 F4-622R, registration: N155UP
Injuries: 2 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators traveled in support of this investigation and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On August, 14, 2013, at about 0447 central daylight time (CDT), United Parcel Service flight 1354, an Airbus A300-600, N155UP, crashed short of runway 18 while on approach to Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (KBHM), Birmingham, Alabama. The two flight crew members were fatally injured and the airplane was destroyed. The cargo flight was operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulation Part 121 supplemental and originated from Louisville International Airport, Louisville, Kentucky.