Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lawsuit over 2009 plane crash near Teterboro ends in $7.5M settlement

George Maddox

Remembering George:


 Beechcraft 58 Baron, Quest Diagnostics Inc., N167TB: Accident occurred August 21, 2009 in Teterboro, New Jersey

Thursday December 12, 2013, 5:51 PM

The family of a pilot killed in a plane crash four years ago near Teterboro Airport will receive $7.5 million under a settlement finalized in Hackensack on Thursday with the owner of the aircraft.

George Maddox, 54, of Sinking Springs, Pa., was the pilot in command of a two-seat, twin-engine Beechcraft model BE-58 Baron plane in August 2009. The plane, owned and operated by Quest Diagnostics, was flying from Pottstown, Pa., to deliver specimens to a Quest laboratory in Teterboro.    

Sanil Gopinath of Laurel, Md., was the co-pilot. A lawsuit filed by Maddox’s widow, Lisa, claimed Gopinath, an independent “contract” pilot, was the one operating the plane at the time of the crash

Authorities said at the time that the plane approached Teterboro Airport but aborted a landing and went for a “go-around,” a standard maneuver that is undertaken if a pilot is not comfortable with executing a landing. The plane then hit a tree, crossed Route 46 and burst into flames outside the Mohawk Carpet Co., authorities said.

Maddox suffered severe burns and died two weeks later from his injuries. Gopinath also was injured but survived.

Lisa Maddox filed her lawsuit in Superior Court in Hackensack in 2011, claiming that the crash was caused by “operational error” and “maintenance related failure.”

In claiming Gopinath was the pilot during the flight, the lawsuit quoted an interview with Gopinath after the crash, in which he said, “I brought the power down, I made a left turn, and [Captain Maddox] freaks out, ‘What have you done? You’ve lost both your engines’.”

The lawsuit claims Gopinath did not have the proper training or experience to fly the plane and that Quest was at fault for hiring him.

The settlement, which was formalized Thursday before Superior Court Judge Brian Martinotti, provides compensation for Maddox’s wrongful death as well as pain and suffering before he died.

The agreement also provides that the amount — after the payment of attorney fees — will be split between Lisa Maddox and her 11-year-old daughter, Lily. The amount also includes payment of $60,000 a year for four years for Lily’s college education.

Martinotti said the settlement was a “fair and reasonable” conclusion to the more than two years of litigation that involved thousands of pages of documents and several attorneys.

Lisa Maddox, who lives in Pennsylvania, attended the hearing Thursday through teleconferencing. Answering questions from Martinotti, she said she was pleased with the outcome of the settlement.

Her attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, declined to comment, saying the settlement deal includes an agreement among the attorneys not to comment about the case.

Dennis Kadian, the attorney for Quest, also declined to comment.

NTSB Identification: ERA09LA469 
 14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Friday, August 21, 2009 in Teterboro, NJ
Probable Cause Approval Date: 11/16/2011
Aircraft: RAYTHEON AIRCRAFT COMPANY 58, registration: N167TB
Injuries: 1 Fatal,1 Serious.

NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

The airplane was operating as a corporate flight transporting medical specimens on a night, visual approach in visual meteorological conditions when the accident occurred. The flight was scheduled to be a single-pilot operation conducted under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, and the pilot-in-command (PIC) had been assigned to the flight. Although the second-in-command (SIC), also a Quest Diagnostics pilot, was not assigned to the flight, he asked the PIC if he could accompany him on the flight to gain familiarization with operations into Teterboro Airport. Typically, the PIC flies the airplane from the left seat; however, the PIC on this flight allowed the SIC to occupy the left seat and fly the airplane. The investigation could not determine if the pilots had coordinated responsibilities for the flight before departure or if the PIC was providing additional training to the SIC during the flight.

Radar data indicated that, while on the base leg of the traffic pattern, the airplane had an airspeed of about 204 knots, which exceeded the maximum flap extension speed by more than 50 knots and the maximum landing gear extension speed by more than 80 knots. According to the SIC, during this critical portion of the approach to landing, the nonflying PIC remained focused on providing familiarization of the airport and city environment to the SIC, who was flying the airplane, and the PIC failed to monitor the airplane’s airspeed. After the SIC recognized the airplane’s excessive approach speed close to the runway environment, he attempted to slow the airplane. However, he inadvertently retarded the propeller levers and feathered the propellers instead of retarding the throttle levers. Recognizing the resultant loss of thrust, the PIC challenged the SIC’s actions and stated that both engines had experienced power loss. The airplane’s unfeathering accumulators had been removed; therefore, it was not possible for either pilot to quickly unfeather the propellers and reestablish engine power. Approaching the runway centerline at both low altitude and high airspeed and with the propellers feathered, the pilots were unable to slow the airplane and descend before overflying the runway. The airplane crossed the runway threshold at 300 feet and 186 knots (90 knots more than the approach speed of 96 knots), departed airport property, struck objects, and burst into flames.

Chairman Hersman and Member Rosekind did not approve this brief. Chairman Hersman filed a dissenting statement, which Member Rosekind joined. Member Rosekind filed a dissenting statement, which Chairman Hersman joined. Member Sumwalt filed a concurring statement, which Vice Chairman Hart and Member Weener joined. The statements can be found in the public docket for this accident.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The complete loss of thrust due to the second-in-command’s (SIC) inadvertent feathering of both propellers during a high-speed, low-altitude approach. Contributing to the accident was the pilot-in-command’s inadequate monitoring of the SIC’s performance.

Chairman Hersman and Member Rosekind did not approve this probable cause. Chairman Hersman filed a dissenting statement, which Member Rosekind joined. Member Rosekind filed a dissenting statement, which Chairman Hersman joined. Member Sumwalt filed a concurring statement, which Vice Chairman Hart and Member Weener joined. The statements can be found in the public docket for this accident.

Analysis: Foreign Airline Crews Had Difficulties With San Francisco Landings - United States Pilots Had Fewer 'Go-Arounds' When Part of Automated System Was Down

The Wall Street Journal

By  Rob Barry, Tom McGinty and Andy Pasztor

Updated Dec. 11, 2013 10:18 p.m. ET

Foreign airline crews experienced problems approaching San Francisco International Airport at a greater rate than U.S. pilots when the airport's landing guidance system was impaired, a Wall Street Journal analysis of government data found.

The findings, based on nearly 100,000 flights coming into the busy hub over six months, come as federal investigators held their first public hearing Wednesday on the crash last summer of an Asiana Airlines Co. jet in which three people died and 180 were injured. The pilots' undue reliance on automated flight systems has emerged as a key factor in that crash.

Asiana, based in South Korea, had the highest rate during the system outage of any carrier serving San Francisco for "go-arounds"—approaches broken off at low altitude before touchdown—the Journal found.

In July, an Asiana Boeing Co. 777, flying dangerously slow and low into San Francisco, slammed its tail into a seawall in front of its intended runway. Investigators of the crash are focusing on pilot confusion about automated thrust settings, coupled with the cockpit crew's failure to properly monitor the jetliner's speed and trajectory during the visual approach in good weather.

At its public hearing, the National Transportation Safety Board revealed Wednesday that the commander of the Asiana jet failed to respond to as many as four verbal warnings from a co-pilot that the aircraft was descending too quickly shortly before impact. The pilot flying the approach told investigators afterward he had been "very concerned" about executing the approach to San Francisco without precise vertical guidance.

Asiana officials said Wednesday that all company pilots flying into SFO had the required training, experience and the confidence of management.

The instrument landing system at San Francisco provides just such vertical and horizontal guidance, giving pilots detailed visual cues on their instrument panels if they veer from a safe trajectory. Otherwise, crews would have to use their own eyes and judgment to line up with a less-precise array of lights alongside the runway intended to help pilots stay on the correct path.

Over a five-week stretch leading up to the July 6 crash, a pivotal component of the system at SFO, as the airport is known, was out of service on the two busiest runways because of construction.

During the outage, foreign carriers broke off landing approaches to go around and try again at a rate nearly three times as high as their American counterparts, according to the Journal's analysis. The Journal examined radar data for 95,436 approaches to San Francisco's runways 28L and 28R, and focused on go-arounds initiated at altitudes of 1,000 feet or lower.

From Jan. 1 through June 1, the point at which San Francisco's "glideslope" equipment was taken out of service, non-U.S. carriers executed at least 20 go-arounds at or below 1,000 feet in 5,349 approaches to the two runways, for a rate of 3.7 go-arounds per 1,000 flights. That is about 37% higher than the 2.7 per thousand for domestic carriers in the same period.

Once the glideslope shut down, rates rose for both domestic and foreign carriers, but the increase for non-U.S. airlines was significantly larger.

Relying on visual approaches without precise, ground-based guidance, foreign airlines racked up at least 17 go-arounds out of 1,534 approaches, a rate of 11.1 per 1,000 approaches. By comparison, the rate for U.S. airlines during the same period was 4.3 per 1,000 approaches.

Four of the go-arounds by non-U.S. carriers involved Asiana, including one executed 400 feet from the ground just after midnight on the day before the crash. The other three planes each descended to 200 feet before executing their go-arounds.

An Asiana spokesman declined to confirm the total, saying "Asiana's policy is that any pilot can call for a go-around, and can do so without penalty."

Safety experts cite various reasons for the discrepancy between U.S. and foreign airlines. Some say foreign crews have less exposure to SFO's busy airspace; its closely spaced parallel runways; and the tendency of controllers to boost airport capacity by often maintaining minimum required spacing between planes. Others see some foreign airlines playing down manual skills—particularly for pilots flying widebody planes on long-haul routes—because automated controls are more fuel-efficient than manual flying.

Pilots can perform go-arounds for a variety of reasons, including congestion on the ground or in the air, and a failure to properly align the plane with the runway late in the approach. In some cases, the aborted landings are ordered by air-traffic controllers; other times, pilots make the decision to try again. According to the FAA, go-arounds "are routine, standardized procedures, and can occur once a day or more at busy airports for various reasons."

The spate of go-arounds by non-U.S. carriers may be explored in testimony and documents slated to be released this week as part of the NTSB's hearing.

"The statistics for go-arounds are obviously a significant element" as investigators unravel what happened and why the accident occurred, according to Robert Francis, a former vice chairman of the safety board. "It's just the kind of thing the NTSB certainly will be paying a lot of attention to."

Roughly two weeks after the accident—with part of the ground-based precision landing equipment still inoperative—the FAA took the unusual step of publicly prodding pilots of foreign airlines to use satellite-based aids or other systems as safeguards when landing at SFO.

Air-traffic controllers also stopped clearing foreign carriers for simultaneous visual approaches to closely spaced parallel runways, which can distract pilots. The extra precautions, which didn't apply to U.S. carriers, were lifted on Aug. 22, the day when SFO's glideslope equipment was put back into service.

This week, an FAA spokeswoman said the special procedures were prompted by "an increase in go-arounds at SFO by some foreign carriers that were flying visual approaches," though she didn't provide specifics.

The data analyzed by the Journal showed the flight tracks of all aircraft that approached SFO during the period, providing each plane's latitude, longitude and altitude approximately every five seconds. The data didn't include reasons for the any of the maneuvers those planes made.


NTSB Identification: DCA13MA120 
 Scheduled 14 CFR Part 129: Foreign operation of Asiana Airlines
Accident occurred Saturday, July 06, 2013 in San Francisco, CA
Aircraft: BOEING 777-200ER, registration: HL7742
Injuries: 3 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 July 6, 2013, about 1128 pacific daylight time, Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER, registration HL7742, impacted the sea wall and subsequently the runway during landing on runway 28L at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), San Francisco, California. Of the 4 flight crewmembers, 12 flight attendants, and 291 passengers, about 182 were transported to the hospital with injuries and 3 passengers were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by impact forces and postcrash fire. The regularly scheduled passenger flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 129 between Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea, and SFO. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.