What do pilots do when the plane is crashing?
Plane Crashes into House or Building
Every airplane accident can spell tragedy, but there is an extra element when people on the ground are involved in these disasters. Those who go about their business in the seeming safety of their homes never expect a plane to crash into their living room. Planes crash into houses more often than most people realize and certainly more often than the lenient regulations in these accidents would imply. In our experience, after a plane crashes into a house or building, the emotional, physical and financial consequences are potentially as far reaching for those on the ground as those aboard the aircraft.
The legal options for the airplane passengers as well as those harmed on the ground can be difficult to navigate, and discovering all the parties responsible for these incidents can be more daunting than meets the eye. Whether the victim is the pilot, passenger or a person on the ground that is killed or injured in such an event, you will need a lawyer who is familiar with the complexities of the investigation and litigation processes that are necessary after planes crash into houses.
How Often Do Planes Crash Into Houses?
As with all air travel, accidents are not common, but they do happen to hundreds of planes each year. However, there are certain factors that tend to play a part in a large majority of cases where planes crash into houses.
Most planes crash into houses near airports. In the event a pilot cannot make it to the nearest airport, most pilots will try to land their plane in an empty stretch of land, such as a large grassy field or a clear roadway. Whenever a plane is experiencing difficulties midair, an air traffic controller (if one is available) will usually try to direct the struggling aircraft to the nearest airstrip. This exposes the houses surrounding airports to the possibility that a plane with mechanical difficulties can fall short of the desired landing area and accidentally crash into a house.
It is important to note that houses around large, international airports are mostly unaffected by these instances. This is because most of the time when a plane crashes into a house, a small plane, or general aviation aircraft, is involved. In fact, while the number of large commercial airline crashes has decreased, the number of small or general aviation plane crashes has remained largely unchanged over the years.
It is becoming harder for private planes to take off and land at large airports that are servicing commercial airlines, so these planes are generally directed to small airports, often in the middle of residential areas. Not all airports have control towers. Not all airports with control towers are manned by air traffic controllers around the clock. Smaller airports are not always certified to handle planes carrying 30 or more passengers. This lack of certification also means that these airports are not required to have a tower with staff to visually monitor, and separate, planes taking off or landing, even when the pilots are required to fly by visual flight rules.
Smaller personal planes and helicopters are not required to carry insurance, and neither are the maintenance facilities that service these small planes. Private pilots are allowed to have fewer hours of in flight training under their belt and the airplanes and helicopters they fly are often left without many of the safety protocols and technology that are standard for large passenger planes.
Take for example the homes surrounding the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. This small airport has had 42 planes crash land within five miles of the airport since the 1980s. Many people in the community have been petitioning to close the airport for decades out of fear of further accidents damaging their homes. And, Santa Monica Airport does have a control tower, but it is not staffed around the clock.
Who is to Blame When Planes Crash Into Houses?
A plane usually crashes due to a number of factors. Our law firm has decades of experience in ferreting out the true causes of these tragedies whether it be related to aircraft maintenance, faulty plane design or aircraft malfunction, pilot error or even air traffic controller negligence.
It is often hard to determine the party or parties at fault when planes crash because so many of these issues can mask one another. Even NTSB reports sometimes incorrectly determine the cause of an air crash. A USA Today investigation found that many planes crashes which the NTSB originally claimed were caused by pilot error, were determined in court to have been caused by defective parts or poor design. This is why it is so important to have a proper investigation done by an experienced aviation attorney. It is often the case that the NTSB report is just the starting place for a thorough investigation when it comes to small airplane or helicopter crashes.
In one of our most recent cases, a Beechcraft Bonanza crashed into a home in Palm Coast, Florida, killing all three people on board. The potential causes of the crash were not apparent until our firm took a closer look at the incident. In this case, when the pilot reported a vibration in his engine to air traffic control, the FAA air-traffic controller directed him to an airport, which they said was only five miles away.
Our lawsuit, on behalf of the family of one of the deceased passengers, argues that the airport the controller suggested was not the closest airport since there was another airport available that was two miles closer. We also contend that there were additional errors made by the controllers who directed the pilot to fly farther away from the airport and perform numerous turns, which caused the aircraft to lose precious altitude while having insufficient engine power. Tragically, these events culminated in the airplane crashing into a home less than a mile from the airport.
Hidden Issues After Planes Crash into Houses
Unlike larger airplanes, pilots of small planes that hold only a few passengers are often not as thoroughly trained. They are not required to train as long as pilots who fly for airlines before they are certified and they have little to no oversight when it comes to plane maintenance or maintaining their skills.
Additionally, flying a plane is not treated like driving a car in the eyes of federal regulators. This means that for small planes that are privately operated, the pilot is not required to have insurance. When one of these pilots makes an error that sends an aircraft into a nearby residence, the homeowners can find themselves in a terrible situation.
With no, or minimum, insurance on the plane to cover the destruction of the home, the homeowner might be left to cover the loss. Many homeowners’ insurance does not necessarily cover a loss caused by a plane crash. Often times there are no clearly identifiable responsible parties to shoulder the financial burden of the destruction of property, not to mention any death or injury to persons in or near the home, resulting from such an event.
It is for these reasons, at least, that experienced aviation attorneys should be consulted in an effort to determine if there actually is a responsible party who should be held accountable for the losses.
Call (855) 948-5098 or contact us online to speak with our legal team.
Why Do Planes Crash?
Aircraft never crash because of one single issue. It’s almost always a combination of factors that lead to an accident. Whilst flying is extremely safe, the typical reasons as to why planes crash include pilot error, technical failures, bad weather, terrorism, and pilot fatigue.
There is never one single cause attributed to pilot an aircraft crash. For example, if the aircraft suffers a serious technical problem (but one that shouldn’t result in the loss of an aircraft) and its subsequently mishandled by the pilots resulting in a crash, does that count as pilot error or mechanical breakdown? The mechanical breakdown on it’s own shouldn’t have meant the plane crashed, but could have been handled correctly by the pilots. Therefore, both are causal factors.
As a result, the statistics made available for the causes of aircraft crashes are not always clear. It is however widely accepted that the following statistics are a reasonable representation of the primary reason for plane crashes:
- 55% Pilot Error
- 17% Aircraft Mechanical Error
- 13% Weather
- 8% Sabotage
- 7% Other (ATC, Ground Handling, Unknown)
Examples of Pilot Error include “Loss of Control in Flight” and “CFIT” (Controlled Flight Into Terrain).
Swiss Cheese Model
Aircraft accidents never occur due to one specific reason, there are always a multitude of factors which combine and result in an aircraft incident or accident.
An example might be pilot fatigue, coupled with bad weather and a technical problem. If any one of these single factors were not present, the crash wouldn’t have happened. In the industry, this is called the “Swiss Cheese Model” based on academic theory by James Reason.
If you imagine lots of different slices of Swiss Cheese, from different blocks of cheese, all lined up next to each other, the chances are that you won’t be able to see all the way through one of the holes to the end, as the holes will all be in different places.
Each slice of cheese represents an individual factor such as fatigue, poor weather or poor standard of training. On the rare occasion that all the holes line up together, an accident can occur.
What is the most dangerous phase of flight?
Statistically, the most dangerous phase of flight, or the part of a flight where an accident is most likely to occur is landing. Boeing released the following statistics for the worldwide Commercial Jet Fleet between 2005 – 2014.
Percentages of fatal accidents based on phase of flight:
17% Decent Initial Approach
38% Final Approach / Landing
If you found this page interesting, check out our article on what could cause a total engine failure on a passenger jet.
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