The National Transportation Board investigates every general aviation accident.  It chalks up the vast majority to pilot error. But half the time, it’s just wrong.

The trouble’s that, in investigating an accident, the NTSB refuses to consult with the pilot’s family or the family’s experts. Rather, it invites into the investigation only other potentially responsible

The NTSB allows aviation manufacturers to participate in its crash investigations.  But it excludes from the investigation the crash victims, the victims’ lawyers, and their experts.  That’s how the NTSB has gone about investigating aviation accidents for years.  It’s little wonder, then, that the NTSB’s final reports are frequently biased in favor of the manufacturers

Families of those involved in five different general aviation crashes and their lawyer are suing the NTSB, charging it with obstruction of justice.  The suit claims that the NTSB withheld from the families information concerning each of the crashes in violation of the Freedom of Information Act.

I’ve commented before about how the NTSB’s “

Why doesn’t the FAA do a better job of promoting aviation safety?

1. The FAA’s Inherent Conflict of Interest.  When the FAA was created, it was charged with bothFAA regulating aviation and promoting it. But most aviation regulations don’t promote aviation — they constrain it. The FAA’s inherent conflict of interest explains why the

The NTSB is underfunded and understaffed. So it investigates accidents using the "party system."  That means the NTSB relies on those who may have caused the accident for help in investigating the accident’s cause. Unfortunately, the "party participants" seldom point the NTSB towards evidence in their files that would tend to incriminate them. As a result, NTSB reports go easy

The NTSB excludes family members from its accident investigations.  But it allows those who may have caused or contributed to a crash to participate.  That’s an obvious conflict of interest.  As a result, NTSB probable cause findings are not always impartial.  Instead, they tend to favor the industry players.  Reno-Tahoe International

The industry players have long argued that, while they

I often write about the NTSB’s "party system." That’s the NTSB’s practice of asking airlines and manufacturers for help in determining an accident’s cause.  If you ask me, it’s a bit like asking the fox for help in figuring out what happened to the chickens. The party system allows industry participants to bias NTSB probable cause findings in their

Steve Wilson argues that there are safety issues with Cirrus airplanes. First, Wilson feels that the Cirrus is more prone than your typical Beechcraft to crashes in which the pilot loses control of the aircraft while maneuvering. Second, Wilson feels that the Cirrus is more susceptible to crashes involving inadvertent encounters with icing conditions.

Of course, the NTSB chalks up both of these types of accidents to pilot error, not to a fault in the


Continue Reading Steve Wilson: “The Cirrus Airplane Has Serious Problems”

According to the NTSB, most aviation accidents are caused by pilot error. But avNTSB Investigates for Probable Causeiation lawyers know that as many as half the cases that the NSTB says were the result of "pilot error" simply weren’t.

The NTSB does its best to get an accident’s probable cause right. The trouble is that, in almost every one of

A Philadelphia jury has determined that a defective carburetor caused the 1999 crash of single-engine aircraft that killed four and injured one. The aircraft, a Piper Cherokee Six, was manufactured in 1968. The jury’s verdict included $25 million for compensatory damages and $64Piper Cherokee Six - PA32 million as punitive damages against the engine manufacturer Avco Lycoming, a division of Textron.

Since the Aircraft was Older than 18 Years, Why Didn’t the General Aviation Revitalization Act Protect Lycoming from Liability?

There are a number of exceptions to the General Aviation Revitalization Act (known as GARA). In particular, GARA doesn’t apply when the manufacturer, in obtaining FAA certification of its part, conceals from the FAA information about defects in the part’s design. The jury in this case determined that Lycoming did just that. Thus, GARA was no defense.

The NTSB Determined the Cause of the Crash was Pilot Error. Its Report Didn’t Say Anything About a Defective Carburetor. Why Wasn’t the Jury Bound by the NTSB’s Findings?

The NTSB’s accident reports almost always favor the manufacturers. That’s because the NTSB relies on the manufacturer for help in determining the cause of the crash it is investigating. The NTSB calls this method of investigation the “party system.” 

Of course, asking the manufacturer for help in figuring out if thPrecision Carburetorere was a defect in its engine is much like asking the fox for help in determining what happened to the chickens. There’s a built-in conflict of interest. The NTSB is aware of the conflict, but continues using the party system anyway.

Here, after consulting with Lycoming’s experts, the NTSB decided not even to examine the carburetor. Since the NTSB never tore down this critical component, it’s no surprise that the NTSB did not discover any problems with it.

Fortunately for the victims’ families, the NTSB’s conclusions are by regulation inadmissible in court.

Why Did the Jury Award Punitive Damages?

A jury cannot award punitive damages simply because the defendant was negligent, or just


Continue Reading Defective Carburetor Results in Jury Verdict Against Avco Lycoming