Alabama – Whenever anybody hears of a plane losing altitude and crashing, the immediate assumption is that there might have been something wrong with the plane. When you hear the term ‘pilot error,’ you assume that the pilot made an error in judgment. When you hear the word ‘stall,’ you assume that something was wrong with the plane’s engine.
However, various assumptions that might have been made surrounding a plane crash which took the lives of two people last December in Randolph County, Alabama were put to rest this week, when it was determined that a contributing factor to the crash was, indeed, rest—or more correctly, lack thereof.
Flight Instructor and Student Pilot Killed
It was December 7th of last year when a single-engine Cessna plane, built in 1978 stalled, went into a nosedive and crashed into a hillside near Bethel East Church. Both occupants of the plane, a flight instructor and her student pilot, were killed in the crash. Emily Clark, 28 of Madison and her student James Brown, 37 of Huntsville were returning from Orlando where Brown had been attending a conference.
A probable-cause report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Wednesday served to dispel some of the myths that may have been circulating around the tragic airplane crash just a few weeks prior to Christmas last year.
Age of Plane Not a Factor, But Pilot Fatigue Was
The plane, although nearly 30 years in the air, was mechanically sound. Thus, causes of the airplane crash were listed as unknown forces responsible for a loss of control of the aircraft, together with an ‘inadvertent’ stall.
Crew fatigue was noted as a contributing factor.
The word ‘stall’ in this context has nothing to do with the engine. Encountering a condition of stall in the air is not necessarily the same thing as stalling the motor in your car, or the outboard on the fishing boat at the cottage. Rather, ‘stall’ in this context relates to a lack of lift pertaining to the wings of the aircraft.
According to Alex Lemishko, assistant deputy director for the NTSB’s regional operations, something caused the pilot to lose control of the plane, which in turn put the Cessna into a maneuver where the wings could not generate sufficient lift to keep the plane in the air.
While there was no conclusion drawn as to what might have caused the plane to go into a stall, a previous report into the accident revealed that both Clark and Brown had been awake for 20 hours without sleep at the time of the crash. Thus, speculation that the pilot may have become sleepy while at the controls, fatigue which is believed to have been a contributing factor in the crash.
Fatigue a Common Factor in Accidents
There have been many examples, over the years, in other industries where fatigue has been a factor in accidents. Truck drivers are required to keep detailed logbooks of their waking, and sleeping hours, lest they push the limits for reasons of efficiency and profit, and risk harm to themselves and others on the road in the process.
To that end, extreme fatigue while driving, and the impairment that results, has been likened to alcohol impairment: reflexes are slow, and judgment is poor. Is the person up ahead in the car in front of you weaving because he is drunk? Or sleepy?
There are strict regulations for both commercial, and private pilots with regard to rest periods. In the end a well-maintained and mechanically sound plane is only as good as the pilot, who is charged with making a myriad of important decisions—everything from having the wisdom to defer to poor weather if conditions warrant, to properly loading the plane to safe parameters.
And ultimately, piloting the plane safely. If your life has been put in danger by a pilot who has had too little sleep, know that pilot fatigue is an actionable offense.
Contacting a Wrongful Death Lawyer
When you need a lawyer who will exhaustively investigate your case and make sure that every responsible party is held accountable, contact The Killino Firm, where Keeping America Safe is our primary goal. To speak to one of our attorneys, please call us toll free at 877-875-2927, or contact a Philadelphia wrongful death lawyer via email. We will respond promptly to your inquiry so that you can experience The Killino Firm Difference.