It has been a week since the Continental Commuter crash outside of Buffalo, and questions are swirling as to what went wrong.
The first reports give the impression that the crash was due to pilot error, such as
- The pilot’s use of autopilot in snow and ice conditions. It appears that the wings and tail were icing-up, and the pilot was flying at a low altitude on autopilot. If he were flying manually, he would have felt the ice build-up and could have done something. When he took the plane off autopilot it was too late.
- The pilot’s inexperience.
Therefore, it appears that the crash was due to pilot error or negligence. Thus far, there has been no hint that the a design or manufacturing defect of the airplane caused the crash.
It is a bit too early to make conclusions since the crash is still under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. See our prior post on the crash here. The NTSB findings will be key evidence in the lawsuits by the families of the dead passenger.
Generally, in an air crash the plaintiffs have the burden of proving negligence in order to recover. However, judges and juries tend to favor the injured and dead unless the airline can come-up with an excellent explanation that exonerates it fully. One explanation is a design defect in the airplane that caused the crash.
Mark E. Seitelman, 12/19/09, www.seitelman.com.