On December 27, 2013, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a series of general aviation safety alerts. The alerts, which detail particular hazards, are targeted to pilots to help them prevent catastrophic aviation accidents.
While each of these latest safety alerts is important, as a whole they illustrate the preventable nature of most aviation accidents.
One alert warns pilots to recognize potentially dangerous weather conditions; those that can contribute to carburetor icing. If a pilot fails to prevent carburetor ice from forming, the aircraft’s engine can lose power, resulting in deadly consequences. The NTSB reports that from 2000 to 2011, carburetor icing was a factor in 250 aviation accidents. And it is responsible for, on average, two fatal airplane accidents per year.
Besides pilot error, another leading cause of aviation accidents is improper maintenance. One of the new NTSB aviation safety alerts warns pilots and mechanics to inspect fiber or nylon self-locking nuts. These nuts lose their ability to hold tight connections over time and if not replaced before then are dangerous. The NTSB cites one airplane crash that killed 10 people and injured 64 others when degraded nuts failed and the pilot lost control of the aircraft.
Not all of the aviation safety hazards highlighted by the NTSB were technical in nature. One of the alerts reminds pilots and crews to secure loose items, such as GPS units, clipboards, laptops, and jackets, before taking off. The organization offered several examples of airplane accidents caused by loose items, including one in which a portable antenna got lodged in the aircraft’s elevator bellcrank. This forced the plane into an uncontrollable nosedive, killing the pilot and the passenger onboard.
As these alerts indicate, numerous factors can play a role in airplane crashes. Attorneys experienced in conducting investigations into aviation accidents can help determine those responsible and hold them accountable to the crash victims and their families.