Suit Claims Negligent Operation of Aircraft, Including Misuse of Thrust Reversers and Miscalculation of Stopping Distances; Training Deficiencies and "Conscious Disregard for Safety" Cited
New York, NY, April 28, 2006 - Citing an array of operational and training shortcomings and critically-flawed judgment, a passenger injured during the fatal landing in a snowstorm last December of Southwest Airlines (SWA) Flight 1248 at Chicago's Midway Airport today sued the airline. Also named in the suit filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, IL, are the airplane manufacturer, The Boeing Company, and the City of Chicago, which owns and operates the airport.
The suit was filed by the aviation law firm Kreindler & Kreindler LLP on behalf of the passenger, a Naval officer then living in Annapolis, MD, who suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result of the accident.
The suit claims that a series of negligent and willful operational, judgmental and training failures by the defendants led to the accident, including Southwest's failure to properly calculate the required landing distance; failure to discontinue an unstable approach; and failure to properly train the flight crew in the use of the airplane's autobrake, reverse thrusters and spoiler systems. The suit also alleges that the crew's first officer did not even have his seat in a position to reach and apply the brakes.
"Southwest Airlines acted in conscious disregard for the safety of its passengers on Flight 1248, as well as for the victims on the ground and the general public," said Kreindler's Daniel O. Rose, a highly trained pilot who successfully litigated a similar case against Southwest stemming from a runway overrun in Burbank, CA, in March 2000. "Concerns about cost savings - a known element of the corporate culture of this particular airline - combined with sub-standard crew training and poor judgment by the pilots of this flight resulted in a horrific event, including the tragic death of a young boy on the ground."
Airline's Dangerous Corporate Culture
Mr. Rose cited a report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on April 4, 2006, regarding another SWA incident in Amarillo, TX, on May 24, 2003. Together with the Burbank and Chicago accidents, Mr. Rose said there is concern that SWA flight crews may not be adhering to the high level of safety required of commercial air carriers.
"In the Amarillo incident, a SWA flight crew similarly attempted a dangerous approach and landing, that time during a thunderstorm," said Mr. Rose. "That aircraft ran off the side of the runway. The Amarillo flight crew apparently disregarded safety in its decision to get that plane down." The NTSB Amarillo incident report reveals that the captain, after telling the first officer, "aw you've seen worse [thunderstorms depicted on the aircraft's radar]," then told the first officer, "man you're gonna be a god out of this whole thing I can tell, a hero," which was followed by audible laughter. Then, according to the NTSB report, only seconds before touchdown, the captain is heard telling the first officer, "do it ... you can do it," followed by "ten feet, put her down." During the landing rollout, the aircraft veered off the runway and the nose gear collapsed.
"The NTSB findings about the Amarillo accident are eerily similar to the Chicago and Burbank incidents," said Mr. Rose." There are approaches no pilot should ever attempt."
Fatal Midway Accident Reveals Improper Use of On-Board Performance Computer and Thrust Reverser System
The Flight 1248 suit claims that Southwest used an on-board performance computer system (OPC), designed to calculate the required landing distance, that was negligently designed and programmed. Mr. Rose said: "The computer system should not have taken a credit for the ability of the thrust reverser system to assist in slowing the plane down immediately upon touchdown. But it did so, and as a result it calculated a landing distance that was less than what was actually needed because the thrust reversers were not timely deployed."
In a statement issued on January 27, 2006, the NTSB specifically cited Flight 1248 saying: "If the thrust reverser credit had not been allowed in calculating the stopping distance for flight 1248, the OPC would have indicated that a safe landing on runway 31C was not possible."
The suit further claims that the Southwest crew also failed to properly use the thrust reverser system. The NTSB stated: ". . . the thrust reversers were not deployed until 18 seconds after touchdown, at which point there was only about 1,000 feet of usable runway remaining ... the delayed deployment of the thrust reversers can lead to an unsafe condition, as it did in this accident."
On December 8, 2005, SWA Flight 1248 landed in a snowstorm at Midway, killing one child riding in a car near the airport and seriously injuring several others as the plane overran the runway and plowed onto South Central Avenue, just south of West 55 th Street adjacent to Midway Airport. The flight originated from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
"This crew was responsible for safely landing the 737 aircraft or for determining whether attempting a landing would put the passengers at risk," said Marc S. Moller of the Kreindler firm. "They made an unforgivable mistake and the result was disastrous." Mr. Moller cited the similar suit against Southwest for the Burbank crash, in which the injured parties successfully claimed that SWA fosters a culture of expediency, cost savings and an aggressive "get the plane down" approach that, in combination, compromised passenger safety.
About Kreindler & Kreindler LLP
Founded in 1950, Kreindler & Kreindler LLP ( www.kreindler.com) is nationally recognized as the first and most prominent aviation law firm in the nation. With offices in New York and Los Angeles, the firm has been the leading plaintiff legal counsel on hundreds of aviation cases, including major ones such as the September 11 terrorist attacks, Pan Am Lockerbie Flight 103, Korean Airlines Flight 007, TWA Flight 800 and American Airlines Flight 587, and many cases of small private and commercial crashes. The leading legal textbook in the aviation field, "Aviation Accident Law," was authored by members of the firm.
Marc S. Moller is a Kreindler law partner who has represented thousands of victims of commercial and general aviation disasters, and litigated accidents involving single-engine, multi-engine, helicopter, corporate jet and military equipment for more than 25 years. He is presently the Plaintiffs' Liaison Counsel for all passenger and ground victim tort litigation arising from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and is an internationally recognized expert in aircraft litigation.
Daniel O. Rose is a Kreindler law partner specializing in litigating airline, general aviation and military crash cases, as well as other complex products liability and negligence cases. Mr. Rose served in the United States Navy as a carrier-based attack pilot, including service in Operation Desert Shield. He is a multi-engine commercial and instrument rated pilot.
Mark V. Ferrante, an attorney in Chicago, is serving as local counsel on the plaintiff's Flight 1248 case. www.FerranteLaw.com
Link to Complaint (pdf file)