1lawflying’s Blog

November 5, 2008

Assessing Who is Liable for your Aviation Injuries

Aviation OverviewsIn most aviation injury cases, an airline is the most likely candidate for assessing liability. The liability of an airline will be determined by examining a multitude of complex Federal Aviation Administration (”FAA”) regulations. These regulations provide uniform standards and operating procedures, as well as industry standards; the airline’s own standards, as reflected in their own manuals; and common-law tort rules of reasonable due care in aviation injury cases.

Liability may also arise from injuries or death to people on the ground and property damage caused by crashing or falling aircraft. As aviation has come of age, the standards applicable to aircraft owners and operators, vis-a-vis persons and property on the ground, have become more like the standards applicable to passengers. Thus, the movement is away from strict liability and toward negligence. The law however, varies among the states.

Private aircraft owners and operators are not held to the same standards as commercial airlines, but they are held to well-defined standards, nevertheless. These are primarily found in the FAA Regulations, but may also be found in state law and the standards of the industry.

Many aviation injury cases are products liability cases. Fault that causes aviation accidents can be both of the design and fabricating kind and can exist on the part of the aircraft manufacturer or a components manufacturer. Establishing liability against a manufacturer for aviation injuries is very difficult and expensive. Very high standards of design and manufacture exist on the part of aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers. The consequences of product failure are very serious to the manufacturer, both in terms of human tragedy and the extremely expensive cost of aircraft. Consequently, the manufacturer’s commitment to excellence is high. Despite the difficulty of prosecuting such a case, practical circumstances make it necessary to look beyond the operator to determine responsibility. Even when the claimant can establish a clear case against the operator, there may be incomplete recovery.

In the private aircraft field quite another problem exists. Liability insurance on the part of the owner or operator of the aircraft may not be sufficient to cover the damages that are sustained in a given aviation accident. Many states have now adopted, as part of their tort reform legislation, statutes permitting a party defendant to point the finger of blame at a nonparty, thereby reducing or discharging altogether that party’s liability to a plaintiff. Such statutes constitute yet another reason why a plaintiff may have no choice but to sue both the operator or carrier and the manufacturer when meritorious claims exist against both.

In the private and commercial aircraft field, independent companies usually perform the aircraft maintenance. They also may need to be joined as defendants when the aviation accident is caused by negligent maintenance or failure to perform required maintenance.

In the United States the Federal Aviation Administration governs the Air Traffic Control System (”ATC”) and controls all air traffic. One of the primary duties of ATC is aircraft separation. As a result, the United States is a frequent defendant in aviation injury cases. In collision accidents, therefore, the United States would normally be a party along with the operators of both aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration has a host of regulations and manuals that provide rules and practices governing many aviation and air traffic control situations. Suits against the United States are governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act (”FTCA”).

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November 4, 2008

How many flights per day do air traffic controllers handle in the United States?

Filed under: accidental,accidents,flying,laws,safety,slip — 1lawflying @ 6:29 am
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On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings.

For every one flight you see listed on an airport monitor, two you don’t see show up on air traffic controllers’ screens. It would take approximately 7,300 airport terminal monitors to show all the flights controllers handle in a single day and approximately 460 monitors to show the number of flights being handled at any one time.

2. How many air traffic controllers are there?

There are 14,305 air traffic controllers that work for the Federal Aviation Administration, according to FAA data (dated Aug. 2006). That’s a drastic decline from the 15,386 controllers the FAA employed in September 2003. For Fiscal Year 2007, the FAA says it expects to hire only 1,136 controllers (as compared to 1,248 which it says it would hire according to its 2004 Controller Workforce Plan) and expects losses of 1,005 — 53 percent higher than originally forecast. This change negates the agency’s ability to recoup net losses in 2004 and 2005.

In addition, in 1994, the FAA began to contract out air traffic control towers and today, 131 FAA facilities are contracted out. NATCA also represents many controllers who work at these facilities.

3. Where do air traffic controllers work?

Air traffic controllers work at each of the 266 control towers operated by the FAA in the 50 states and in places such as San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Pago Pago. FAA air traffic facilities also consist of 21 air route traffic control centers (ARTCC), 185 terminal radar approach control facilities (TRACON), two radar approach control facilities (RAPCON), three combined center/radar approach control facilities (CERAP), the Air Traffic Control System Command Center in Herndon, Va., 61 automated flight service stations, 15 flight service stations and 14 Alaskan rotational flight service stations.

4. The workload for air traffic controllers is often measured with the term “operation.” What is an “operation?”

The definition is simple: An operation is an aircraft handled by an air traffic control facility. But the way operations are officially counted is a bit complex. For example, an operation at the Chicago TRACON is also an operation at the Chicago ARTCC once the aircraft enters that facility’s airspace. But each facility only counts it once. For airport towers, an arrival does not count as an operation, but a departure counts as two. Why? Because the aircraft had to arrive first in order to depart.

No matter how many controllers work the plane or how many sectors of airspace it crosses, it only counts as one operation for the facility.

5. What are the busiest airport control towers in the country?

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International was the busiest in 2006, handling 976,313 takeoffs and landings. Chicago O’Hare was second, with 958,643. Next on the list of busiest airports, in order, are Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles International, Las Vegas, Denver, and Houston Intercontinental.

6. What is an operational error and how often do they occur?

An operational error occurs when two aircraft get closer than the FAA’s minimum separation standards allow. The FAA categorizes errors based on the severity of the breach of separation standards and nearly all of the errors, it has found, are of the minor category, where the separation threshold was only slightly violated. Operational errors are very rare, only occurring on average less than one time for each 100,000 operations (a takeoff, landing or aircraft on the radar screen) handled by controllers.

In 2002, controllers handled 158,167,995 operations and made just 1,061 operational errors. That’s an 11 percent reduction in errors from 2001 figures, while operations were only down three percent from the year before. Additionally, the FAA reported a seven percent decline in operational errors from Oct. 1, 2002 through March 30, 2003, compared with the same period a year ago. While controllers believe one error is too many and are always working on ways to reduce errors, they are proud of this achievement.

7. What is a runway incursion and how often do they occur?

A runway incursion is an incident where an aircraft enters a runway without an air traffic control clearance. For instance, most runway incursions are caused by pilots crossing the “hold line.” Runway incursions have decreased steadily in recent years, going from 432 in 2000 to 339 in 2002 to 326 in 2004 and finally to 330 in 2006.  Considering controllers at airport control towers handled more than 44 million operations in 2006, the incidents of runway incursions are remarkably few. However, controllers, pilots, the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to work toward reducing incursions even further.

Two new pieces of technology are aiding controllers. The Airport Movement Area Safety System has been commissioned at over 30 airports. The Airport Surface Detection Equipment- Model X (ASDE-X) is scheduled to be deployed at 34 airports over the next several years. Both systems warn the controller, not the pilots, of potential incursions. But only ASDE-X works in poor weather conditions.

source: http://www.natca.org

November 1, 2008

To Chew or not to Chew

Filed under: accidental,flying,safety — 1lawflying @ 12:02 am
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Newswise — The holidays are a popular time to fly to visit family and friends. Many people have problems with their ears when flying, especially during takeoff and landing.

When there is a sudden change in air pressure in the airplane, a person’s ears will try to adjust, which causes the feeling of fullness or pressure in the Eustachian tube and middle ear chamber.

The House Ear Institute (HEI) has tips to make air travel more comfortable.

• Chew gum, suck on candy, drink liquid or yawn vigorously during the descent, to stimulate swallowing and equalize pressure in the middle ear.
• We swallow less when asleep, so children often wake up crying when the plane begins to descend due to the uncomfortable build-up of pressure in their ears. Parents can prevent their child’s discomfort by waking them at the start of the descent.
• Place a pacifier or bottle in an infant’s mouth during take off and landing, to encourage the baby to swallow.
• Avoid flying with an ear infection, or when congested due to a sinus infection, a cold or an allergy attack.
• If congested and flying is unavoidable, it may help to pretreat with pseudoephedrine and/or a decongestant nasal spray before takeoff.

Physicians at the House Clinic recommend seeing an ENT physician or otologist if a person experiences:

• Significant pain after or during a flight
• Changes in hearing after a flight
• Discharge coming out of the ear after a flight

For more information, please visit the institute website, http://www.hei.org.

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