Kreindler Investigates Recent Cessna 177 Crash in Georgia

Cessna 177

On November 26, 2011 a Cessna 177 RG, registration number N5AW, lost engine power and collided with trees in a field in Tallapoosa, Georgia. Tragically, all on board were killed. The flight departed the Knoxville Downtown Island Airport (DKX), Knoxville, Tennessee, destined for the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), Panama City, Florida. The aircraft was built in 1972 and equipped with a Lycoming IO 360 engine.

According to the FAA and NTSB, the pilot was in cruise flight at 4,000 feet and contacted ATC to declare an emergency due to low engine oil pressure. The pilot requested radar vectors to the nearest airport but later advised the controller that he was unable to make it and was going to land in a field. Shortly thereafter radar contact was lost and there were no other radio transmissions.

Examination of the wreckage by the NTSB revealed that the fuselage and engine were significantly fire-damaged.

This terrible tragedy is reminiscent of another Cessna engine failure case (involving a similar Lycoming engine) prosecuted by Kreindler partners Brian Alexander and Steven Pounian. In that case, a seasoned instructor pilot experienced a loss of engine oil pressure and eventually a total loss of engine power which forced him to make an emergency landing. The pilot heroically avoided nearby buildings, but the aircraft lacked sufficient power to get to a safe landing area and was forced to crash in a wooded area. The post crash fire was horrific and, as in this case, the engine was consumed by fire. The NTSB conducted an investigation, but was unable to determine the cause of the engine power loss. Not dissuaded by the NTSB's lack of results, Kreindler attorneys hired a veteran engine expert and one of the country's foremost metallurgists to conduct an independent investigation. Even though the fire damage had destroyed much of the evidence we quickly zeroed in on the engine's carburetor as the source of the engine power loss. We also seized upon an important legal concept known as the "mere malfunction doctrine" which enabled us to prevail despite the lack of physical evidence using a combination of circumstantial evidence (of a carburetor failure) combined with proof that no other cause could explain the engine failure. After a lengthy litigation battle we obtained a very successful settlement with the carburetor manufacturer.

It takes technical and legal skill to prevail in cases where the critical evidence is destroyed by fire or impact forces. Kreindler & Kreindler has the skill, expertise and commitment to take on tough cases and win. If you have questions concerning this or any other aviation accident, contact us and speak with a partner at the firm.