It will come as no surprise that there are a multitude of different causes that can lead to a car accident. The same truth applies to aviation accidents, a fact that might frighten a potential passenger, but does not change the broader fact that flying is generally one of the safest modes of travel. However, the range of aviation accident causes is evidence of the wide range of things a pilot must consider when taking the helm (as the range of car accident causes shows the many responsibilities of a driver). Pilot error is a factor in many plane accidents, and our Panama City aviation accident attorney knows there are many different errors that can cause tragedy. An overloaded aircraft is a danger to those on board and bystanders on the ground, and flying with too much weight is one type of critical pilot error.
On May 9, 2012, shortly after 11 A.M., pilot Pablino Gutirrez crashed just moments after taking off from DeFuniak Springs airport. Now, as reported by WJHG, the National Transportation Safety Board has released its final report on the incident that killed the 77-year-old. Gutierrez had flown in the Air Force and as a commercial pilot. He was flying a Hummel Bird, which he had built himself, when he took off, climbing 300 feet before plunging to the earth.
Investigators have concluded that the crash was due to carrying too much weight on the small plane. The plane was overloaded with 58 pounds more than it was capable of carrying safely. Notably, Gutierrez had recently experienced some weight gain, and his doctor and some of his friends suggested he look into a larger plane for safety reasons. Investigators say there was nothing mechanically wrong with the plane.
One unfortunate twist of irony is that the day after the accident, a letter arrived saying that the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") was revoking Gutierrez's license because of medications he was using to treat high blood pressure.
With the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, the FAA provides basic information that pilots need to understand in order to fly safely, including a chapter on "Weight and Balance." The section opens with the clear statement that "[c]ompliance with the weight and balance limits of any aircraft is critical to flight safety." Aircraft performance can be affected by excess weight in numerous ways, including reduced maneuverability, longer takeoff distances, shorter range, and other adverse changes. Poorly balanced weight can lead to similar adverse results. The FAA manual is clear in saying that pilots should determine the aircraft's weight and check for proper balance prior to every flight.
Our thoughts go out to the Gutirrez family. We also know that in many cases a pilot's error puts other individuals in danger's path. In these cases, it may be appropriate for the injured individual or the grieving family of someone killed in an aviation accident to file a civil claim for money damages. Depending on the details of the accident, proper defendants in a case involving an overloaded plane might be a pilot who failed to check the plane's weight, a company that oversaw flight operations and may not have enforced rules about aircraft weight, or a manufacturer that did not provide appropriate information on craft capacity.
If a plane crash in Northwest Florida injured you or claimed a relative's life, our Panama City airplane accident attorney can help you file any and all appropriate civil claims. We are committed to helping victims recover the maximum monetary compensation available under Florida and/or federal law.