Mid-air collisions and crashes involve two sets of pilots, airplanes, and flight plans. They also often involve numerous maintenance providers, multiple owners and operating companies, and cruise operators who book sightseeing tours and cause heavy traffic in popular regions.
Leading Attorneys in Representing Midair Collisions and Crashes
Due to the complex nature of litigating these cases and effectively identifying the true causes of the accident and the liable parties, it is crucial to seek the representation of leading aviation attorneys that are highly knowledgeable and experienced in handling these cases. Midair collisions often result in catastrophic losses as passengers of both planes can be severely or fatally injured.
How Common are Midair Collisions and Crashes?
Even though mid-air collisions and crashes are rare, airplanes crash into each other more often than most people think. There are recurring factors that play a significant role in these cases. Despite public perception, mid-air collisions do not frequently happen during foggy weather or at night when visibility is impaired. Most cases occur during broad daylight because this is the time when flying conditions are ideal as pilots rely on visual flight rules (VFR). As a result, these types of accidents tend to occur within a five-mile radius from the airport and in areas with heavy airplane traffic.
Midair collisions are more frequent among small planes. Smaller planes and personal use helicopters for enterprise and sightseeing purposes are more prone to accidents due to the lack of specific, controlled routes and professional monitoring by air traffic controllers. It’s important to note that small planes are not usually aware of other aircraft in their surroundings, primarily because they operate under visual flight rules and lack a set route or the help of air traffic controllers.
The probabilities of two airplanes colliding with each other mid-air vary by location. Smaller planes and personal use helicopters are more prone to accidents due to the lack of specific, controlled routes. Popular tourist destinations or plane and helicopter locations have a higher tendency for these accidents. Statistics show an increase in potential mid-air collisions as more personal aircraft operate in the same area.
A good example is New York City’s skyline, one of the world’s most spectacular sightseeing locations. In 2009, a tour helicopter and a private plane collided mid-air over the Hudson River. The collision was attributed to an air traffic controller taking a personal call, which prevented him from leading the aircraft. Making your way above the Hudson River can be very dangerous as planes flying through this area operate under visual flight rules, with no scheduled flight plans and air traffic controllers. In addition to the numerous touring companies and private own planes and helicopters, over 30 airports or heliports, including three large international airports, all operating under the same airspace of the City of New York.
What can cause mid-air collisions?
The Federal Aviation Administration has established a set of regulations known as the “see and avoid rule,” which requires pilots to stay vigilant while operating an airplane. “See and avoid” sets the foundation for who has the right of way as it dictates how pilots need to act when two planes are approaching each other, converging, overtaking, and landing.
Many mid-air collisions occur when a pilot violates one of these sets of rules. There are many challenges in applying these rules as other factors during air travel )such as weather, speed, restrictions on vision, and human decision) need to be taken into account during an investigation.
Midair collisions and crashes can also occur when at least one pilot is unaware of the presence of another aircraft in its surrounding. In some instances, such as when instructing a plane to land on the same runaway that another plane is taking off from, air traffic controllers are responsible for collisions. However, if a pilot is improperly trained to fly during low visibility, the crash can be blamed on the company’s negligence.
One factor to consider is that all pilots are susceptible to a mid-air collision. An inexperienced pilot may be unaware of a nearby aircraft, while an experienced pilot may not be as attentive after traveling through a familiar route. Even when air traffic controllers and pilots are on the alert, it can be challenging to prevent these accidents due to the high rates of speed that planes can reach.
The FAA has claimed that pilots can quickly develop empty-field myopia during a flight. Empty-field myopia is a loss of focus in the pilot’s vision due to the lack of nearby objects. Other problems that pilots face are tunnel vision, in which they lose a sense of peripheral objects. Environmental effects like glare from the sun can blind the human eye for seconds. Additionally, flying through buildings can easily serve as camouflage for other planes operating in the area.
No matter the cause, our mission at Wilshire Law Firm is to investigate these cases thoroughly and provide the best results for our clients. Midair collisions require the expertise and determination of globally recognized aviation lawyers like those at our firm.
Aviation Case Studies: Midair Collisions and Crashes Handled by our firm
Cessna 130P and Cessna 172N Collision: On May 18, 2009, a flight instructor and a trainee were hit by a plane operated by a certified airline pilot while performing turns on a commonly used practice area south of the Long Beach Harbor in California. The collision resulted in the death of the three passengers of both Cessna planes.
Cessna 172N and Cessna 150M Collision: On January 20, 2008, a mid-air collision occurred at the Corona Municipal Airport in Corona, California, after two Cessna planes collided with each other when one plane prepared to enter the runaway as the other plane was taking off. The crash resulted in the death of both pilots and all passengers and a person on the ground who suffered fatal injuries from falling debris.
Piper PA-28-180 and Piper Pa-44-180 Collision: On March 7, 1996, privately owned Piper PA-28-180 and Piper PA-44-180 registered to Phoenix East Aviation, Inc., collided during a flight after taking off from Daytona Beach Regional Airport in Florida. Both planes operated around 600 feet above sea level and approximately one-quarter of a mile offshore of Flager Beach, Florida. The pilot and the three passengers on the privately-owned piper were on a sightseeing flight when they collided with a certified flight instructor aboard the Phoenix East Piper. The collision resulted in the death of all people. According to a witness, both pilots failed to take evasive action, which led to the planes crashing and falling into the water. The NSTB contributed the causes of the accident to pilot error.
Cessna 182R and Cessna 170A Collision: On February 24, 1996, there was a collision between a Cessna 182R and a Cessna 170A at around 1,000 feet above ground in Proctor, Arkansas, in which a total of four people died. According to witnesses, both planes were flying in opposite directions when they tilted in the same direction and impacted. The planes landed about one-half mile apart, and a pilot who witnessed the accident described clear visibility of about 20 miles as there was no glare from the sun. The NSTB attributed the airplane crash to both pilots’ failure to see and avoid each other.
Beech A36 and Stinson 108-2 Collision: On February 19, 1989, a Beech A36 Bonanza and a Stinson 108-2 suffered a mid-air collision as they flew above Glen Falls, New York, resulting in the death of six people. The Bonanza plane took off from Warren County airport and was making a right turn as it began its climb while the Stinson was returning to the airport.
After an NSTB investigation, investigators concluded that the causes of the crash were pilot failure to see and avoid each other. The Beechcraft failed to make a left turn and avoid the Stinson. Another contributing factor was a glare from the sun, which affected the Stinson pilot’s vision.
McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 and Piper PA-28-181- Archer Collision: On August 31, 1986, a McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 operating under AeroMexico Flight 498 was hit by a Piper PA-28-181 Archer as it was landing on the Los Angeles International Airport. The mid-air collision resulted in the death of 67 passengers and 15 people on the ground after both planes landed in the suburb of Cerritos, California. Even though not physically harmed by the debris from the aircraft, two individuals on the ground suffered from emotional distress such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The incident was investigated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which blamed the crash on both pilots.