Skip to comments.Golfer's [Payne Stewart] Family Seeking Millions Over Fatal Plane Crash
Posted on 05/04/2005 6:41:12 PM PDT by RedBloodedAmerican
ORLANDO, Fla. -- A civil trial has started over who and what is to blame for the 1999 Learjet crash that killed pro golfer Payne Stewart and five others.
The lawsuit, brought by the families of Stewart and his close friend and agent Robert Fraley, who also died, could result in a jury award worth millions if the plane's manufacturer is found to be at fault.
Or testimony could show that a lack of pilot training and plane maintenance caused the Learjet 35 to lose pressure soon after takeoff from Orlando, killing all aboard within minutes. The plane then began an eerie journey across America before running out of fuel and nose-diving into a South Dakota pasture.
The case, which began Tuesday, is expected to take six weeks to argue.
The Oct. 25, 1999, crash came months after Stewart won the U.S. Open, his third major championship. That victory was one reason an attorney for the families calculated that Stewart, who was 42, could have earned more than $200 million in winnings, endorsements and other ventures if his career had not been cut short.
"The evidence is going to show this case is first and foremost about trust and responsibility," said Daniel Barks, a lead attorney for the families. "Learjet violated that trust. ... They wagered the lives of Bob Fraley and Payne Stewart."
Barks will try to pin the crash on defects within the outflow valve and its adapter, which sit near the front nose of the aircraft. The valve helps maintain pressure in the cabin during flight and depressurizes a plane upon descent.
Barks said poor design, lack of testing and weak materials caused the adapter to fail, exposing a 3-inch hole and allowing depressurized air into the cabin.
Learjet attorneys don't dispute that the cabin lost pressure that day, but they say the valve adapter worked as it should have.
"This adapter did not fail," said Robert Banker, attorney for Learjet. "There's nothing wrong with that adapter."
Banker's team notes the part was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration and remains in more than 300 aircraft. The part has no history of failures, the defense contends.
Learjet will try to blame Sunjet Aviation, the plane's operator, which closed not long after the crash, with failing to maintain the aircraft. They pointed out a history of problems the company had with maintenance and finances.
And the attorneys said Sunjet's pilot, Michael Kling, had not been adequately trained and perhaps could not respond to a rapid depressurization quickly.
It was Sunjet Aviation's fault with the plane, not Learjet. I wonder how this will turn out.
The Air Force flies the Lear 35 (known as the C-21). Darn fine aircraft.
If we in the U.S. had a "loser pays" legal system of awarding legal fees, cases like this wouldn't make it to the courtroom.
I have a buddy that has a couple of Lears. He lovingly (somewhat) refers to them as "land darts".
The evidence will show that this is all about MONEY. Go after the deep pockets with a jury of idiots.
Florida has a two year statute of limitations on wrongful death I think. It's been 6 years.
Oh, I see, now. The case is just going to trial now. Was obviously filed years ago.
The lawyer scum are searching for the deepest pockets, whereever they can find it!
Barks said poor writing, lack of science training, and weak comprehension skills caused the writer to fail, exposing a logic hole and allowing depressurized air to overcome pressurized air and enter the cabin.
I hate this. Cash in! Cash in! Cash in!
And they could win no matter how unfair.
of course its about money, it's a civil suit igmo. What do you want them to sue for, 500 hammer hits?
that was my question, unless there was a tolling agreement.
I remember listening to Rush when this happened, and I thought he was kidding.
>> If we in the U.S. had a "loser pays" legal system of awarding legal fees, cases like this wouldn't make it to the courtroom.
But then we would have a brand new welfare class: trial lawyers! It is about damn time we sent their sorry butts to hell where they belong.
read my other post, though. Apparently, it was filed long ago. Just going to trial now. It's the filing date that matters.
Then they can sue the flight school who didn't prepare the pilot properly. Or the maker of his mattress because he didn't get enough sleep the night before. Or the maker of the automobile who brought him to the airfield. Or the people who poured the concrete on the flight line...it goes on and on.
find out who depressurized all that air--he's your culprit!!!
"...allowing depressurized air into the cabin..."
Yup! That depressurized air is ubiquitous stuff! Works its way into PRESSURIZED cabins at high altitude every time!
Too bad divers don't know about this - depressurized air down there deep could allow for fast ascents without fear of the bends...
"It is about damn time we sent their sorry butts to hell..."
A friend of mine said some years ago that we should put 'em all on a big boat, float it out into the middle of the ocean, pull the plug, and make 'em swim with the rest of the sharks.
Well, the aviation company knew the aircraft had a problem and didn't do anything about it. IMO they should be sued for negligence.
"Then they can sue the flight school..."
Maybe he went to the same flight school that the 911 pilots attended - learned how to take off, didn't learn how to land.
12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty.
In the circles I travel in, I'd be lucky to have a friend with a couple Dodge Darts.
>>> A friend of mine said some years ago that we should put 'em all on a big boat, float it out into the middle of the ocean, pull the plug, and make 'em swim with the rest of the sharks. <<<
LOL. Your friend is much too kind.
If Payne Stewart thought that he was worth $200 million, he should have purchased a $200 million life insurance policy.
I am guessing that his life insurance policy was worth somewhat less than $200 million!!
If perfection is the standard, then no aircraft, nor any train, nor any car should ever be allowed to travel.
Any pressurized plane can experience a loss of cabin pressure. That is why airliners have the little drop-down oxygen masks for passengers. USAF Lear 35/C-21s have a good safety record, and I maintain that they are fine aircraft.
The full report is available on the NTSB Web site. See http://www.ntsb.gov/publictn/publictn.htm for details. HISTORY OF FLIGHT
On October 25, 1999, the flight crew was scheduled to begin a 2-day trip sequence consisting of five flights. The flights on the first day were to be from Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), Sanford, Florida, to Orlando International Airport (MCO), Orlando, Florida; from MCO to Dallas-Love Field Airport (DAL), Dallas, Texas; and from DAL to William P. Hobby Airport, Houston, Texas.
The first flight of the day, a visual flight rules positioning flight operating under 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, was scheduled to depart SFB about 0800 EDT bound for MCO, which is approximately 15 nautical miles (nm) away. According to the Sunjet Aviation customer service representative on duty at SFB on the day of the accident, the captain reported for duty at SFB about 0630 EDT, and the first officer arrived about 0645 EDT. She stated that both pilots were in a good mood and appeared to be in good health.
A Sunjet Aviation line service technician stated that the captain asked him to pull the airplane out of the hangar, fuel it to 5,300 pounds fuel weight, connect a ground power unit to the airplane, and put a snack basket and cooler on the airplane. The first officer arrived at the airplane just before the fueling process started and stayed in the cockpit while the airplane was being fueled. The first officer then went inside the terminal building while the captain performed the preflight inspection of the airplane.
About 0725 EDT, an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed with the St. Petersburg Automated Flight Service Station for the second flight of the day, MCO to DAL, which would operate under 14 CFR Part 135. The flight plan indicated that N47BA was scheduled to depart MCO about 0900 EDT; follow a route over Cross City, Florida, to 32 degrees, 51 minutes north and 96 degrees, 51 minutes west; and proceed directly to DAL. The requested altitude was 39,000 feet. The flight plan also indicated that there would be five persons on board (two pilots and three passengers) and 4 hours and 45 minutes of fuel.
According to a witness, the accident airplane departed SFB about 0754 EDT. The flight arrived at MCO about 0810 EDT. An Aircraft Service International Group employee at MCO stated that after the airplane arrived, the captain told him that they were picking up passengers and did not require additional fuel. According to this witness, the passengers arrived about 30 minutes later and boarded the airplane. The Sunjet Aviation director of operations indicated that an additional passenger who was not on the original charter flight request boarded the accident airplane at MCO. Several bags were placed on board the airplane, including what the Aircraft Service International Group employee described as a big golf bag weighing about 30 pounds.
According to ATC radio transmissions, the flight departed MCO about 0919 EDT bound for DAL. At 0921:46 EDT, the flight contacted the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and reported climbing through an altitude of 9,500 feet to 14,000 feet.
At 0921:51 EDT, the controller instructed N47BA to climb and maintain FL 260. N47BA acknowledged the clearance by stating, "two six zero bravo alpha." At 0923:16 EDT, the controller cleared N47BA direct to Cross City and then direct to DAL. N47BA acknowledged the clearance. At 0926:48 EDT, N47BA was issued instructions to change radio frequency and contact another Jacksonville ARTCC controller. N47BA acknowledged the frequency change.
At 0927:10 EDT, N47BA called the Jacksonville ARTCC controller and stated that the flight was climbing through an altitude of FL 230. At 0927:13 EDT, the controller instructed N47BA to climb and maintain FL 390. At 0927:18 EDT, N47BA acknowledged the clearance by stating, "three nine zero bravo alpha." This was the last known radio transmission from the airplane. The sound of the cabin altitude aural warning was not heard on the ATC recording of this transmission.
At 0933:38 EDT (6 minutes and 20 seconds after N47BA acknowledged the previous clearance), the controller instructed N47BA to change radio frequencies and contact another Jacksonville ARTCC controller. The controller received no response from N47BA. The controller called the flight five more times over the next 4 1/2 minutes but received no response.
About 0952 CDT, a USAF F-16 test pilot from the 40th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB), Florida, was vectored to within 8 nm of N47BA. About 0954 CDT, at a range of 2,000 feet from the accident airplane and an altitude of about 46,400 feet, the test pilot made two radio calls to N47BA but did not receive a response. About 1000 CDT, the test pilot began a visual inspection of N47BA. There was no visible damage to the airplane, and he did not see ice accumulation on the exterior of the airplane. Both engines were running, and the rotating beacon was on. He stated that he could not see inside the passenger section of the airplane because the windows seemed to be dark. Further, he stated that the entire right cockpit windshield was opaque, as if condensation or ice covered the inside. He also indicated that the left cockpit windshield was opaque, although several sections of the center of the windshield seemed to be only thinly covered by condensation or ice; a small rectangular section of the windshield was clear, with only a small section of the glare shield visible through this area. He did not see any flight control movement. About 1012 CDT, he concluded his inspection of N47BA and proceeded to Scott AFB, Illinois.
About 1113 CDT, two Oklahoma ANG F-16s with the identification "TULSA 13 flight" were vectored to intercept the accident airplane by the Minneapolis ARTCC. The TULSA 13 lead pilot reported to the Minneapolis ARTCC controller that he could not see any movement in the cockpit. About 1125 CDT, the TULSA 13 lead pilot reported that the windshield was dark and that he could not tell if the windshield was iced.
About 1133 CDT, a TULSA 13 airplane maneuvered in front of the accident airplane, and the pilot reported, "we're not seeing anything inside, could be just a dark cockpit though...he is not reacting, moving or anything like that he should be able to have seen us by now."
About 1138 CDT, the TULSA 13 lead pilot stated, "my wingman is going to make a final pass and then we are going to head back to the [midair refueling] tanker." The TULSA 13 wingman reported, "we did not get close enough to see any icing on the window due to our configuration...we did get up behind him but did not see anything." About 1139 CDT, TULSA 13 flight departed for the tanker.
About 1150 CDT, two North Dakota ANG F-16s with the identification "NODAK 32 flight" were vectored to intercept N47BA. (TULSA 13 flight had returned from refueling, and both TULSA 13 and NODAK 32 flights maneuvered in close proximity to N47BA.) About 1157 CDT, the TULSA 13 lead pilot reported, "we've got two visuals on it. It's looking like the cockpit window is iced over and there's no displacement in any of the control surfaces as far as the ailerons or trims." About 1201 CDT, TULSA 13 flight returned to the tanker again.
At 1210:41 CDT, the sound of an engine winding down, followed by sounds similar to a stickshaker and an autopilot disconnect, can be heard on N47BA's cockpit voice recorder (CVR), which recorded the final 30 minutes of cruise flight. The CVR also captured the continuous activation of the cabin altitude aural warning, which ceased at 1212:26 CDT. At 1211:01 CDT, ATC radar indicated that N47BA began a right turn and descent. One NODAK 32 airplane remained to the west, while one TULSA 13 airplane broke away from the tanker and followed N47BA down. At 1211:26 CDT, the NODAK 32 lead pilot reported, "the target is descending and he is doing multiple aileron rolls, looks like he's out of control...in a severe descent, request an emergency descent to follow target." The TULSA 13 pilot reported, "It's soon to impact the ground he is in a descending spiral."
It was shoddy maintainance, poor record keeping, poor training and forged logbook entries.
Why sue Lear? Deep pockets. Period.
No aircraft is "perfect" as perfect is defined, but there are maintenance and flight standards required for flight. If they are not met, the plane does not fly. It doesn't have anything to do with perfection. They were aware of a problem that should have grounded the aircraft before Payne boarded it, that's all.