Friday, December 28, 2018

Family members of 2016 plane crash victims sue United States government: Cessna 182H Skylane, N1839X, fatal accident occurred December 26, 2016 near Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Airport (KGKT), Sevier County, Tennessee



Joseph "David" Starling and Kim Smith

Joseph "David" Starling 

Family members of a local 8-year-old boy and a mother who died in a plane crash are now suing the United States government.

The plane took off from Keystone Heights on December 26th, 2016, and crashed into the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

The crash killed all three people on board: Bradford County father David Starling; his son, Hunter Starling; and his girlfriend Kim Smith.

David Starling was piloting the plane.

The plane crashed into a mountain peak while flying through a cloud layer where the pilot had low visibility.

The lawsuits filed by Hunter’s mother, Tabitha Starling, and Kim Smith’s son, Joshua Garrett Smith, claim the Federal Aviation Administration “approach controller never warned the pilot that he was at an obvious risk of colliding with the mountain.”

The federal government filed a response blaming the “negligent acts and omissions of the pilot.”

Action News Jax reported in 2016 that Starling did not have the proper license for a low-visibility cross-country flight.

“When you are searching for an airport and you don’t have an instrument rating … you have a tendency to... get lower and lower trying to see the airport and maintain visual contact with the ground. And, unfortunately, the clouds sometimes hide the terrain,” said Jacksonville University assistant professor of aeronautics Wayne Ziskal in 2016.

The National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Final Report said, “The pilot had a history of disregard for established rules and regulations.”

The report said Starling had a history of operating his plane in conditions he was not licensed to fly in.

The NTSB also said he “used the potentially-impairing stimulant phentermine at some time before the flight, but the samples available for testing were inadequate to quantify impairment.”

Phentermine is an amphetamine-like prescription appetite suppressant.


Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wokv.com


Joseph David Starling, his 8-year-old son Hunter, and Kim Smith.

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Nashville, Tennessee
Continental Motors, Inc.; Mobile, Alabama

Aviation Accident Final Report - National Transportation Safety Board: https://app.ntsb.gov/pdf


Investigation Docket - National Transportation Safety Board: https://dms.ntsb.gov/pubdms

http://registry.faa.gov/N1839X

Location: Gatlinburg, TN
Accident Number: ERA17FA073
Date & Time: 12/26/2016, 1602 EST
Registration: N1839X
Aircraft: CESSNA 182
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Defining Event:  Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT)
Injuries: 3 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

Analysis 

The non-instrument-rated private pilot elected to conduct the cross-country flight over mountainous terrain without obtaining a weather briefing or filing a flight plan. As he approached his destination, the pilot requested a descent from his cruising altitude of 9,500 ft mean sea level (msl), which was approved by air traffic control. The controller instructed the pilot to maintain visual flight rules flight throughout his descent. Instead, the pilot descended the airplane into a cloud layer between 7,000 ft msl to 5,000 ft msl despite his instructions from air traffic control. Radar data and satellite weather imagery depicted the airplane in a steady-state descent inside a solid cloud layer which tracked north, directly toward the destination airport. The radar track ended at 5,400 ft. msl abeam a mountain peak at 6,500 feet elevation. The accident site was located at 5,400 ft in steep, mountainous terrain about 15 miles south of the destination airport at the same position as the last radar target.

Examination of the wreckage revealed no pre-impact mechanical anomalies and signatures consistent with controlled flight into terrain.

The pilot had a history of disregard for established rules and regulations. The pilot's medical certificate was expired, and his airplane was about 2 months overdue for an annual inspection. He was counseled numerous times by an experienced flight instructor about his unsafe practice of operating the airplane in instrument meteorological conditions without an instrument rating, but he continued to do so over a period of 2 years and again on the accident flight. His contempt for rules and regulations was consistent with an anti-authority attitude, which is hazardous to safe operation of aircraft.

The pilot had used the potentially-impairing stimulant phentermine at some time before the flight, but the samples available for testing were inadequate to quantify impairment. Therefore, it could not be determined if the pilot's use of phentermine contributed to this accident. 

Probable Cause and Findings

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:
The non-instrument-rated pilot's intentional visual flight rules flight into instrument meteorological conditions, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain. Contributing to the accident was the pilot's established anti-authority attitude. 

Findings

Aircraft
Altitude - Not attained/maintained (Cause)

Personnel issues
Decision making/judgment - Pilot (Cause)
Qualification/certification - Pilot (Cause)
Total instrument experience - Pilot (Cause)
Personality - Pilot (Factor)
Self confidence - Pilot (Factor)
Prescription medication - Pilot

Environmental issues
Low visibility - Effect on operation (Cause)
Low visibility - Decision related to condition (Cause)

Factual Information

History of Flight

Enroute-descent

Controlled flight into terr/obj (CFIT) (Defining event)

On December 26, 2016, about 1602 eastern standard time, a Cessna 182H, N1839X, collided with mountainous terrain during descent for landing to Gatlinburg Pigeon Forge Airport (GKT), Sevierville, Tennessee. The private pilot and two passengers were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to and operated by the pilot under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal cross-country flight. The airplane departed Keystone Airpark (42J), Keystone Heights, Florida, about 1300.

Information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the airplane was receiving visual flight rules (VFR) flight-following services and was at 9,500 ft mean sea level (msl) when the pilot requested a descent into GKT. At 1554, the controller approved the descent, issued an altimeter setting, and directed the pilot to "maintain VFR." Radar data depicted a descent on a ground track of about 340° directly toward GKT at a groundspeed between 130 and 150 knots.

At 1558, about 20 miles from GKT, the airplane descended below the minimum vectoring altitude of 8,000 ft msl. The airplane continued its descent on the same ground track and about the same speed. At 1602, the radar target was at 5,400 ft msl abeam the peak of Mt. LeConte, elevation 6,500 ft, when the radar track ended.

At that time, the controller issued the airplane a radio frequency change to the GKT frequency and terminated radar services. No reply was received from the airplane, and no further attempts to contact the airplane were made.

Local law enforcement was notified of the overdue airplane by concerned family members. A search was initiated, and the wreckage was located later that evening by helicopter at 5,400 ft in steep, mountainous terrain at the same position as the last radar target. 

Pilot Information

Certificate: Private
Age: 41, Male
Airplane Rating(s): Single-engine Land
Seat Occupied: Left
Other Aircraft Rating(s): None
Restraint Used: Unknown
Instrument Rating(s): None
Second Pilot Present: No
Instructor Rating(s): None
Toxicology Performed: Yes
Medical Certification: Class 3 Without Waivers/Limitations
Last FAA Medical Exam: 12/03/2013
Occupational Pilot: No
Last Flight Review or Equivalent:
Flight Time:  272 hours (Total, all aircraft), 219 hours (Total, this make and model) 

The pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land. He was issued a third-class medical certificate on December 3, 2013, and he reported 12 total hours of flight experience on that date. That certificate expired on the pilot's 40th birthday in September 2015. A search of FAA records revealed that the pilot had not applied for a medical certificate in any class after December 3, 2013.

The pilot was issued his private pilot certificate on April 1, 2014 at 45.3 total hours of flight experience. His pilot logbook was not recovered. On April 27, 2016, the pilot reported to his insurance carrier that he had accrued 272 total hours of flight experience, 219 hours of which were in the accident airplane. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Manufacturer: CESSNA
Registration: N1839X
Model/Series: 182 H
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Year of Manufacture:
Amateur Built: No
Airworthiness Certificate: Normal
Serial Number: 18255939
Landing Gear Type: Tricycle
Seats: 4
Date/Type of Last Inspection: 10/03/2015, Annual
Certified Max Gross Wt.: 2348 lbs
Time Since Last Inspection:
Engines: 1 Reciprocating
Airframe Total Time: 2595 Hours as of last inspection
Engine Manufacturer:  CONT MOTOR
ELT:
Engine Model/Series:  O-470 SERIES
Registered Owner: On file
Rated Power: 230 hp
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held:  None 

The four-seat, single-engine, high-wing, fixed-gear airplane was manufactured in 1965 and equipped with a Continental O-470-R-series, 230-horsepower, reciprocating engine. According to the airplane's maintenance records, the most recent annual inspection was completed on October 3, 2015, at 2,595 total aircraft hours. 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Instrument Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: GKT, 1013 ft msl
Observation Time: 1615 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 13 Nautical Miles
Direction from Accident Site: 344°
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 4600 ft agl
Temperature/Dew Point: 18°C / 13°C
Lowest Ceiling: None
Visibility:  10 Miles
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm
Visibility (RVR):
Altimeter Setting: 30.3 inches Hg
Visibility (RVV):
Precipitation and Obscuration: No Precipitation
Departure Point: KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, FL (42J)
Type of Flight Plan Filed:  None
Destination: Gatlinburg, TN (GKT)
Type of Clearance: VFR Flight Following
Departure Time: 1300 EST
Type of Airspace: Class E

At 1615, the weather reported at GKT, located 15 miles north of the accident site, included few clouds at 4,600 ft and calm wind. The temperature was 18°C; the dew point was 13°C; and the altimeter setting was 30.30 inches of mercury.

Airmen's Meteorological Information (AIRMET) Sierra for mountain obscuration was in effect along the airplane's flight route. Satellite imagery showed instrument flight rules (IFR) conditions with cloud tops between 6,000 and 7,000 ft msl in the area surrounding the accident site. Conditions north of the ridgeline that the airplane struck and at the destination airport were VFR.

At 1545, about the time the airplane passed overhead, the weather reported at Macon County Airport (2,034 feet elevation), Franklin, North Carolina, about 25 miles south of the accident site included scattered clouds at 700 ft, a broken ceiling at 1,200 ft, and an overcast cloud layer at 2,400 ft. The visibility was 4 statute miles in fog.

A pilot who transitioned through the area of the accident site around the time of the accident captured images and weather information near the site. He said that during the climb, his airplane entered a flat, stratus cloud layer at 5,000 ft and that the cloud tops were at 7,000 ft msl. According to this pilot, the cloud layer remained consistent throughout the en route and descent portions of his flight.

A search of official weather briefing sources, such as Lockheed Martin Flight Service and the Direct User Access Terminal Service, revealed that no official weather briefing was received by the pilot from those sources. A search of ForeFlight weather information revealed that the pilot did not request a weather briefing, nor did he file a flight plan using ForeFlight mobile. However, at 1449, the pilot did enter route information from 42J to GKT in ForeFlight, but he did not view any weather imagery. It could not be determined if the pilot viewed weather observations or terminal area forecast information en route as Foreflight did not archive that information.

Airport Information

Airport: GATLINBURG-PIGEON FORGE (GKT)
Runway Surface Type:  N/A
Airport Elevation: 1013 ft
Runway Surface Condition: Dry
Runway Used: N/A
IFR Approach: None
Runway Length/Width:
VFR Approach/Landing: Straight-in 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 2 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries:  N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 3 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude:  35.651944, -83.458333 (est) 

The wreckage was examined at the accident site by an FAA inspector. There was an odor of fuel, and all major components were accounted for at the scene. Because of the hazardous conditions at the site, a brief photo-documentation of the wreckage was performed before it was recovered by helicopter for further examination. During the subsequent examination, it was determined that two landing gear and a propeller blade were not recovered from the accident site.

The airframe was segmented by both impact and cutting performed by the aircraft recovery technicians. Control continuity was established from the cockpit area, through several breaks and cuts, to the flight control surfaces. All breaks were consistent with overload failure or mechanical cutting during recovery.

The leading edges of both wings were uniformly crushed. Examination of the instrument panel revealed that the instruments were destroyed by impact, and no useful data was recovered. The mixture, throttle, and propeller controls were all found in the full-forward positions. The fuel selector valve was in the "Right" tank position.

The propeller, propeller governor, engine case, No. 6 cylinder, and the crankshaft forward of the No. 4 main bearing were separated by impact forces. The engine could not be rotated by hand due to impact damage. The oil sump was also separated, which allowed for visual inspection of the power section. Visual inspection and borescope examination revealed normal wear and lubrication signatures. The engine accessories were also separated from the engine due to impact. The magnetos could not be tested due to impact damage. Disassembly revealed normal wear and no pre-impact mechanical anomalies.

Aids To Navigation

GKT was depicted on the Atlanta VFR Sectional Chart at 1,014 ft msl. The Maximum Elevation Figure (MEF) for the quadrant that contained both GKT and Mt. LeConte was 7,000 ft msl. Instrument approach procedure charts for GKT depicted the minimum sector altitude as 7,900 ft msl, which provided a minimum clearance of 1,000 ft above all obstacles within a 25nm radius of GKT.

These charts were available to ForeFlight subscribers. 

Medical And Pathological Information

The Regional Forensic Center, Knox County, Tennessee, performed the autopsy on the pilot. The cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force injuries.

The FAA Bioaeronautical Sciences Research Laboratory, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, performed toxicological testing for the pilot. Phentermine was detected in the liver at 0.167 ug/ml, in the spleen at 0.125 ug/ml, and in the kidney at 0.116 ug/ml.

Phentermine is a prescription stimulant/appetite suppressant medication marked under various names including Adipex. It is a central nervous system stimulant, and side effects include overstimulation, restlessness, and dizziness. It carries the warning, "phentermine may impair the ability of the patient to engage in potentially hazardous activities such as operating machinery or driving a motor vehicle; the patient should therefore be cautioned accordingly." The pilot had not disclosed use of this medication to the FAA. There is no known relationship between tissue levels and impairment for this drug. 

Additional Information

The owner/operator of the flight school at 42J where the pilot received his primary flight instruction was interviewed. According to the flight school owner, who was a flight instructor, the pilot "pushed his training as hard as he could and cut corners wherever he could." According to school records, the pilot scored a 73 on his FAA private pilot written exam. The pilot purchased the airplane as soon as he passed his practical exam.

The pilot later built a hangar on his property and kept the airplane there, but he continued to fly in and out of 42J. The flight school owner said that he watched the pilot depart 42J with his family on multiple occasions in weather that was "below VFR minimums." He said that he counseled the pilot numerous times about operating the airplane VFR in instrument conditions. Most recently, he counseled the pilot 2 weeks before the accident.

The flight school owner stated, "I've been flying for more than 40 years, and I tried to explain to him the history of pilots with an anti-authority attitude. It's an attitude that catches up with you. He was a low-time, flat-land pilot with no mountain experience. There was an AIRMET for mountain obscuration that day… there was plenty of information out there."

When asked why he thought the pilot departed on the accident flight with those conditions along his route of flight, the instructor said, "I counseled him numerous times about taking instrument training and getting an instrument rating. Lots of us around here did. He couldn't be bothered. He would just draw… [the flight route] on his iPad and go."

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Played by his own rules ... I guess he showed all of us. RIP

Anonymous said...

"The controller instructed the pilot to maintain visual flight rules flight throughout his descent. Instead, the pilot descended the airplane into a cloud layer between 7,000 ft msl to 5,000 ft msl despite his instructions from air traffic control."

I'm sorry family members suing, but your idiot son got himself and two innocents killed. Your lawsuit is frivolous and only adds to the cost of private aviation expenses. This of course is no new news as Cessna ceased production of the 172 and 182 for many years due to frivolous lawsuits by family members. It's like suing GM for crashing your car while texting and killing everyone with you. I'm sorry for the loss, but in the bigger picture, I hope the judge (and/or jury) throws out the lawsuits.

Anonymous said...

Amen !

Anonymous said...

Arrogant, frivolous and idiotic. American greed at it's bestest by money hungry lawyers. I wonder why they don't sue God because he/she (PC oblige) failed to give him a premonition in a dream about it.
CFIs shall be taught to not allow into GA litigious assholes!!!

Anonymous said...

This is that woman's gofundme.

https://www.gofundme.com/love-support-for-tabitha-starling

Please to all the pilots give her a piece of your mind.

The TRUE MURDERER OF HER CHILD is the pathetic father who "had a history of ignoring rules and regulations" and went VFR into abysmally bad weather conditions requiring IFR.

The very fact blood sucking lawyers even accepted this lawsuit which is frivolous to the extreme is a sad reflection on America and why we need a serious look at the legal system which cripples so many bright industries and individuals and is asphyxiating general aviation.

I am glad the Chinese own Cirrus aircraft, for in the land of Communism soon there will be greater freedom to fly small planes than in this pathetically bureaucratic and over litigious society, like in the last days of Rome.

Anonymous said...

People make stupid mistakes. They are inept. They kill others through their ineptitude.

STOP blaming others for their ineptitude. Accept the fact it is on them. Their entire fault.

Anonymous said...

In today's society, no one wants to accept blame for their actions, but instead blame everyone else. The pilot was non-instrument rated and had no business out flying in those conditions at night. I feel sorry for the family's loss but hope the judge has the good sense to dismiss this lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

I've read a lot of crashes on this site that are caused by pilots not playing by the rules (expired medicals, annuals, licenses, vfr into imc, impaired by drugs in their system). Aviation is self-regulating and sooner or later weeds out all the renegades, just sad when they take innocent passengers with them to the grave. RIP

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with this statement . Passengers entrust the pilot to make correct decisions. This was not the case here . Old saying ...
There are old pilots and bold pilots ......but no old pilots .

Anonymous said...

Should end .... no old BOLD pilots !

Anonymous said...

Yes aviation weeds out those who are careless, irresponsible and have any of the 5 hazardous attitudes.

But sadly they also take out a bit of freedom and enjoyment for others in their selfishness as the lawsuits they generate is a huge bounty for the lawyer population at the cost of a small niche field that is vulnerable to such litigations.

CFI's should unofficially weed out those candidates that not only are borderline dangerous like this pilot was but also have relatives that are sue happy.

Some states like Florida have public records for all to see and a few clicks are that hard to make?

The CFI that trained this plot didn't have the good sense of refusing to train the perpetrator of this irresponsible crash (shall I say manslaughter?) even after seeing all the red flag this person presented as a danger to himself and others.

His CFI license should also be yanked out. CFIs are at the forefront of safety, but some of them did a that job poorly, for the 911 highjackers and smaller cases like here as an example. The TSA shall probably set more clear guidelines regarding who can be allowed the privilege of being trained as a pilot.

Hopefully Artificial Intelligence will soon do a better job at refusing pilot training to dangerous elements. And also in the future each pilot shall be outfitted with a brain scanner that will send an alarm to the authorities if the pilot is in a dangerous state of mind and all planes shall be outfitted with an interlock that will refuse to let the engine start if a dangerous state of mind is assessed.

Anonymous said...

***This is that woman's gofundme.
https://www.gofundme.com/love-support-for-tabitha-starling

Please to all the pilots give her a piece of your mind.****

A poster suggest we pilots should contact this woman and tell her how we feel about this. I say, Please don’t stoop to this level, don’t contact and berate this woman for filing this lawsuit. No, I don’t agree with it and this is totally her sons fault but just because We don’t agree with her actions doesn’t mean we need to make her life hell. She’s lost enough and she’ll probably lose the lawsuit so just leave it at that.

I’m just fed up with people that feel the need to make someone’s life a living hell just because they happen to disagree about something. I literally witnessed a young women get up in front of 60 or so diners and tell us we should no longer eat at this establishment because she didn’t like a tweet the owner of the restaurant had sent. She actually wanted the restaurant to go out of business, put all of the employees on the street, all because of a silly tweet she happened to not like. Don’t be a snowflake.

Anonymous said...

"...this is totally her sons fault."
Her son was age 8. Still a baby/child. He wouldn't be able to make a legal adult decision at age 8 to decide whether or not to get in the plane.

He was dropped off at airports, he was picked up/dropped off at his father's residence without the mother inquiring about the agenda (what will you two be doing while our son is in your care), he was dropped off at malls, he walked away from restaurant tables whilst the adults weren't paying attention to her baby/child - they were playing nonsense video games, texting and chatting on her cellphone, etc etc. Couldn't be bothered to keep an eye on the baby/child or know the whereabouts of her baby/child.

Parents neglecting their babies, children and teens. And babies, children, teens blocking-out adult supervision because they are engulfed in cellphones that their parents freely hand them.

Nobody seems to care until you're dead.

Jim B said...

The LITIGANTS and their ENABLERS want MONEY.

Anonymous said...

In response to the person throwing rocks at the CFI:

In over 40 years of instructing I have learned that you can't always tell what type of pilot someone will become once they get their ticket.

I have instructed quite a few successful types that were absolute "Richards" to work with. To my knowledge, all have done ok and pretty much played by the rules. For these guys I'm more concerned about maintaining proficiency.

I had one private student in 1980 that I am still concerned about. He was slightly above average in hand skills and about average on the knowledge end of things. He had a really good cooperative attitude and appeared to have reasonable judgement.

A few years later he is bragging about a lot of things I consider stupid ... Way over weight and way out of aft CG, out of annual, departures in freezing rain, and other stuff. Eventually gets on with a small outfit flying turboprops 121 and bragging about stupid/illegal stuff he was doing there. Eventually he got on with a third tier operation that was acquired my a major. I hope I am wrong but I expect to read about him one day. I hope it's in his small plane and not the big one. There is nothing I can do.

If I had refused to instruct someone based on what type of pilot I thought they would or would not make, I would have been refusing the wrong ones. I'm sure they would have just gone to another instructor.

The point is you just can't always tell.

Anonymous said...

Someone should have advised these people to stop wasting money on legal fees to pursue an unwinnable case. Incompetent pilot killed his son and girlfriend - end of story.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure who is advising this plaintiff, but if they are to seek any damages, perhaps they should be from the estate of the "pilot". There are so many violations emanating from the left seat before and during the flight, that I am not sure that any knowledgeable attorney would even entertain this litigation, as any negligence was clearly in the hands of the pilot, not the Government.

Anonymous said...

That is the whole point. Those estates may be empty. No insurance too or a disqualifying condition like flying the plane out of annual and violating 91.13 with no adequate preflight check. Thus is left an "easy" target in the government which will settle with the taxpayer's money as the cost of litigation might actually make it just do that, regardless of the absurdity of the complaint. The American legal system has become a tragedy of the commons and a free for all having nothing to do with actual justice. This is because suing anyone for anything is unregulated but provides a huge financial upside for any plaintiff.

Anonymous said...

From an ethical POV lawyers are the regulators as they would be taught (if I am correct) to reject lawsuits that are not ethical. Yet this is one that certainly falls in the category of frivolous ones optimized to milk the system and the taxpayers too.
I understand the insurance may have been denied because of the carelessness and egregious behavior of this jackass (not even a "pilot" in my name) and the relatives of the victims are left penniless.
But up to them to check the credentials and reputation of a pilot in a field where a simple mistake can be dire in consequences. I second the writer above who mentioned the mom of the boy killed didn't even bother to ask her ex what would he do when he had custody of the child. It is her FAULT entirely she entrusted her progeny to someone who's carelessness was well known before this inevitable tragedy due to said perpetrator's carelessness.
It is not to ATC to be babysitter, or play superhero. The controller was by the book and did his job considering the PIC has the last word on everything and it is his responsibility to see and avoid.
Having assets and be a lawful citizen only puts a target on their backs in America. Any Al Queda terrorist or criminal alien is probably laughing their asses at the "lawsuits" they can be subjected to after doing far worst and with intent... a sad paradox.

kell 490 said...

Attorney's praying on emotional feelings of family members I'm sure the lawsuit is on contingency with a big payout for the attorney's.

Anonymous said...

The attorney will not play on the emotions of the plaintiffs. The person at the controls of the plane is not on trial.

The attorneys will play on the emotions of a non-aviation minded jury. No one on the jury will be able to spell "airplane", yet alone be aware of the ramifications of not having licenses, medicals, annuals, the weather and past experiences of the "pilot".

They jury will first be made aware that a plane will fly whether or not anyone on board has a current license, current medical, regardless of the weather- they will be made aware that an FAA employee suggested that the person at the controls could "descend and to maintain VFR"- and that the person at the controls believed them.

A settlement will be made before going to trial ..... and nothing will change.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the government shutdown makes Uncle Sam too poor to settle such idiotic lawsuits.

"rent seeking" at its most egregious.

Also it should be made illegal to ask a verdict from a non qualified or knowledgeable jury pool.

We live in the age of disruptions and after Housing and Car production (thanks Tesla!) the next victim of a Revolution will be the political and legal system.

Anonymous said...

The lawyers are out of control in this country. Now I'm hearing NY & MA want to sue Exxon-Mobil claiming they knew for years that burning fossil fuels leads to global warming but kept it from the public. Are they insane? Let's just sue everybody!

Anonymous said...

Even if I am also very much enclined to make similar comments - as several others have made here (by using terms such as incompetence or pilot negligence etc. etc.), but I still believe in the "good" of people.

Did somebody (who fully knows the rules and procedures to be followed for VFR-flights and VFR-pilots) explain in detail to the surviving family members how this all should have worked and how a safe and competent pilot would have acted and flown (or not flown) this aircraft in such weather conditions?

Did they receive such a kind of a detailed briefing - or not? I personally knew a surviving family that refused (for years) to recognize that their dear son was very negligent and was transgressing many elementary rules and procedures when he killed himself (and three other friends) in a VFR into IMC (into mountain) crash. All comes down to explain this calmly and in detail to them…. Sure, you must be open to hear this message!

Anonymous said...

To the commenter right above, it's all about the money.

Sadly most families start quarreling over a relative's inheritance as the body of the deceased isn't even cold yet, and they have it all spent already.

Ask any attorney involved in inheritance matters and they will tell you they see things that will make them sad to be part of the human race, which also happens to be the most lethal predator on its own and other animals but I digress.

And that is the opinion of attorneys in that field... themselves part of a loathed profession.

So by extension, some people may be "good" but if the family of that pilot was "good" they would recognize their lawsuit will only hurt other people i.e the taxpayer.

It will not bring them back their relative. It will only exacerbate the sadness and tragedy.

Like Stalin said one death is a tragedy, a million just a statistic.

Indeed we should count our blessings we live in a country where we can nit pick such tragedies and not endures millions of deads in wars, famine or mass casualties that happened in previous times.

Michael Gaff said...

This clown was an accident waiting to happen. It matters not, to me, that he took a couple of people with him for his incompetence, arrogance and/or stupidity.
I have only been a pilot since 1971, after flying illegally in Honduras through 1969-1971, but I feel that he did exactly what I have done scores of times. I have a few "there I was" stories and can entirely relate to what happened. I didn't get killed (but I tried), and have scores of stories related to my knowing pushing the envelope. I only have about 9,000 hours in scores of general aviation aircraft, thousands of hours in Boeing 727's, 737's, and 757's, but what do I know?
I flew my Cessna T207 too many times, with skydivers, and barely survived my showing off.
He died. Big deal. Our government didn't kill him.

Anonymous said...

He had it coming, unfortunately he took innocent lives with him.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points:

1) I checked out the go fund me and it was set up in behalf of the mother by a friend and is only $15,000 (of which only $5700 has been raised so far). Basically, that will cover the cost of a funeral for her son and I don't think it has anything whatsoever to do with the lawsuit.

2) Someone mentioned it's like suing GM for a kid getting killed texting while driving. And suing the CFI is like suing the kid's driver's ed instructor.

3) As a nearly 40 year CFI, my advice to other instructors is: DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. Even when you don't fly with someone, if you counsel them as the CFI in the story did, keep a record of the date, approximate time, the subjects discussed, and the person's reaction. If you find yourself in court, you can hand over the log and hopefully reduce any potential liability.

4) As far as all the comments to "RIP". I truly hope the innocent boy and the girlfriend rest in peace. As far as the pilot goes, he can rot in hell as far as I'm concerned. It's one thing to do something stupid and kill yourself. It's quite another to flaunt the regulations as egregiously as this guy did and kill the innocent people who put their trust and faith in him.

Anonymous said...


The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Anonymous said...

"Justice and Freedom is only incident to Law and Order" - meme from a Usenet group back in the day....

The American Tort system is a joke. And even more so the fact the US has devolved into Rome where the legal system as we know it was invented yet it degenerated into a free for all at the end of the Empire.

A cautionary tale.

I don't blame the woman and the relatives as much as rabid lawyers intent on suing.
And the complete lack of morality and ethics of the population from where those lawyers come from. Their mentality is akin to drug pushers, as their economic contribution is similar to drug dealers, with utter disregard for the psychological and economic consequences of their actions, with rationalization as cherry on top to justify this behavior.

We need to study this from the anthropological perspective and study the collapse of complex societies from this phenomenon.

Unknown said...

The woman that is Suing is the EX-wife of the reg-breaking pilot. So her ex-husband is the one who killed their son and the other party. By this woman's reasoning, she should sue her ex-mother and ex-father inlaw since they obviously didn't tell their hot shot pilot son that he couldn't willingly break the FAA regulations. Yea, thats it, she should sue her ex-inlaws for failing at being good parents.

Anonymous said...

Don't give her ideas lol.

Anonymous said...

Joshua Garrett Smith told WATE, a Knoxville television station that covers the Gatlinburg area, that David Starling is an experienced pilot, having previously flown for the Air Force. Joshua Garrett Smith believes this crash is a freak accident. “I have flown with David and I trust him 110 percent. I feel like this God’s plan,” Joshua Garrett Smith said.