Weather Related Accidents

Florida Plane Crash Attorneys

In both commercial and general aviation, weather-related factors are among the top five reasons for aircraft accidents.  In most cases, pilots are trained to avoid severe weather, sometimes delaying flights or diverting destinations to avoid placing the aircraft in dangerous conditions.  Commercial pilots are skilled to operating in Instrument Meteorological Conditions, known as “IMC,” where visibility from the aircraft can be zero.  When visibility is low, aircraft are equipped with instruments and systems to assist the pilots in navigating the aircraft and combatting inclement weather.

Icing is one of the most significant weather hazards a pilot faces.  The very nature of the pressure forces and temperatures of flight are conducive to the formation of ice crystals.  Ice on a flight surface increases drag and decreases an airfoil’s ability to produce lift.  Ice accumulation, even accumulation that is tactually equivalent to that of sandpaper, can cause an aircraft to lose lift at significantly higher speeds than for which it was designed and tested.   Aircraft approved for flight into known icing conditions are specially equipped with anti-icing and de-icing systems ranging from heated surfaces to inflatable surfaces (which break up accreted ice formations when inflated) to systems that distribute anti-icing fluids.  To combat ice crystal development, aircraft operating out of cold weather airports during inclement weather are specially coated with anti-icing fluids that allow them to remain ice free until takeoff and which will sling off the aircraft once in flight.

Pilots are specifically trained in operating an aircraft in potentially hazardous weather situations during their full motion simulator training.  In these training sessions, pilots experience severe wind shear conditions, overwhelming icing and flight control degradation as well as other emergencies that are not prudently practiced in actual flight.

Human factors inherently contribute to weather mishaps.  Decision-making and the proper execution of response procedures on the part of the operators will always be part of the risk mix.

Podhurst Orseck’s attorneys understand the complexities leading to a weather-related incident.  In fact, several of our lawyers are pilots who have received the same type of training.  Working closely with accident reconstruction and weather experts, Podhurst Orseck focuses directly on the relevant facts and issues.

Relevant Aviation Weather Experience

Air France Flight 447, Atlantic Ocean (2009)

En route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France the Airbus A330-203 airliner crashed into the Atlantic Ocean killing all 216 passengers and 12 crewmembers.  The final accident report stated that the aircraft struck the ocean, fully intact and physically capable of flight, in a fully stalled condition.  The accident investigation suggested pitot-static system icing: simple ice accretion leading to faulty flight data.  This, combined with a degree of pilot inexperience in responding to the faulty data displays, led to the aircraft’s demise.  It was the deadliest accident in the history of Air France.

Podhurst Orseck represented the families of 41 victims of Flight 447 and has handled the intricate jurisdictional issues that arose in this unique matter.