Foreign countries routinely bring criminal charges against pilots after an accident. But in the US, criminal charges are very rare. And that’s a good thing because "criminalizing negligence" usually does little to promote safety.  

But perhaps there are exceptions.

Pilot Steven Fay bought his 1960 Cessna in June 2010.  He crashed it after dark on New Year’scessna 310 Day 2011. He survived with minor injuries but, sadly, his 35 year-old daughter — the passenger on the plane — did not.

A Massachusetts grand jury has now indicted him for involuntary manslaughter, which carries a possible 20 year prison term.

Fay’s Cessna, a Cessna 310, was a "multi-engine, complex, high-performance airplane." Trouble is that:

  • Fay was not licensed to fly a twin-engine aircraft;
  • Fay did not hold a high performance aircraft endorsement;
  • Fay did not hold a complex aircraft endorsement;
  • Fay’s last night landing was ten years earlier, and thus he was not legally entitled to carry a passenger in any aircraft at all.

According to the NTSB report, neither weather nor mechanical problems played a factor.