Florida General Aviation Accident Attorneys

General aviation covers any civil aircraft operation that is not covered by Chapter 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations Parts 121 or 135 (or Part 129, which applies to foreign air carriers).  An extremely wide variety of flying operations, using a broad range of aircraft, are included within general aviation.  Most non-commercial aviation, including personal flying and business flying, is governed by the Part 91 regulations of Chapter 14.  Some commercial (revenue-generating) operations, such as flight instruction, the aerial application of agricultural products, paid air tours and some air medical flights and corporate flights are operated under Part 91.  Non-revenue ferry and repositioning flights of aircraft normally flown in revenue service under Parts 121 or 135 are also included under Part 91, as are public use operations
of federal, state and local government agencies.

According to a report released in May 2013 by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the top 10 leading causes of fatal general aviation accidents from 2001-2011 (from most significant to least) were:

  1. Loss of Control Inflight
  2. Controlled Flight Into Terrain
  3. System Component Failure – Power Plant
  4. Low Altitude Operations
  5. Unknown or Undetermined
  6. Other
  7. Fuel-Related
  8. System Component Failure – Non-Power Plant
  9. Midair Collisions
  10. Wind shear or Thunderstorm

The loss of control inflight, specifically aircraft stalls, accounted for 40 percent of all fatal general aviation accidents.

The General Aviation Revitalization Act

During the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, general aviation aircraft manufacturers limited or ceased production of piston-powered, propeller aircraft.  Production plummeted from approximately 18,000 units in 1978 to several hundred per year by 1994 estimates.  Production jobs paralleled this trend.  This fallout was the result of surging litigation in the general aviation market which has led to staggering product liability costs.  U.S. manufacturers such as Cessna, Piper, Beech and Mooney had constructed aircraft so well-built that fleets produced in the post World War Two era lasted for decades.  These fleets carried a never-ending liability tail, to the point that insurance underwriters were unwilling to extend product liability coverage to the makers.

Legal trends which fortified the practice of strict liability litigation did not help matters.  Manufacturers were forced to button up small piston product lines and focus on larger, commercial-sized aircraft if they wanted to remain solvent.  Consequently, the general aviation market began to suffer from a shortage of the more popular, economic models of aircraft. From training to leisure flying to repair, all phases of the aviation industry were impacted.  After a decade, the economic shock became substantial.

The General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, also known as “GARA,” was passed by Congress as a measure intended to generally shield most manufacturers of aircraft (carrying fewer than 20 persons) from liability for most accidents involving aircraft 18 years old or older at the time of the accident.  Although several exceptions were carved out of the law, President Clinton signed GARA into effect in August of 1994.

Since GARA, attorneys have turned their liability attention to other relationships in the general aviation industry and community as alternative defendants to the manufacturers, including:

  • Flight schools
  • Aircraft owners
  • Parts manufacturers
  • Parts retailers
  • Mechanics and repair stations
  • Flight instructors and individual pilots
  • The insurance carriers of all of the above

Podhurst Orseck understand the law surrounding general aviation.  Our attorneys have 40 plus years of experience with general aviation accidents, ranging from single and multi-engine fixed wing aircraft to helicopters and gliders.  Our aviation lawyers have represented victims of general aviation accidents around the country.