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December 2014 Archives


By: Robert A. Clifford AirAsia Flight 8501 was cruising at high altitude in an area of the world that has a reputation not only for high accident rates (3 times that of North America), but also for severe thunderstorm activity at altitudes that can exceed the ceilings of any airliner.  Air traffic control (ATC) voice recordings reportedly show the pilots had asked for diversion around a storm cell but ATC denied that request.  Minutes later, the airplane disappeared from radar screens and remained lost for 2 days until today's discovery of floating wreckage and bodies. Flight at high altitudes in thunderstorms poses dangerous system, flight control, and structural overload risks for airliners.  The most prudent course of action is to avoid these weather cells entirely by changing course, if possible.  However, some pilots try to climb over them, adding to the risk of an accident due to decreased safety margins and pilot inexperience in upset recovery at high altitudes and high speeds.  Airplane systems can also malfunction, especially in severe weather environments, and Airbus models including this one have had their share including recent events that prompted mandatory Airworthiness Directives from safety regulators just this month. While the cause of the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 remains undetermined it is once again clear that there are two existing technologies that would help prevent such airliner disappearance - albeit only 2 days of disappearance in this case - and that they should be required as soon as possible on all airliners world-wide.  The world is growing tired of watching families cry and wait for word from airlines and governments regarding the whereabouts of the large jet airplane their loved ones were flying on. First, deployable recorders that jettison upon impact, float, and transmit their position to satellites world-wide, would assure location of the recorder with flight data and cockpit voice recordings within hours of a crash anywhere in the world, including remote ocean locations.  Deployable recorders such as those made by DRS Technologies have been installed on military airplanes, including variants of commercial airplanes such as the Boeing 707 and 737, for over 50 years.  And since the 9/11 terrorist tragedy, Congress has been funding various deployable recorder studies and demonstrations that show deployable recorders are ready to go for commercial airliners. The commercial aviation industry and relevant government agencies have completed the required technical standards for deployable recorders for commercial airliners.  So now we just need the NTSB to recommend the use of deployable recorders to the FAA and for FAA to require them on all US airliners.  And ICAO should make them a recommended practice for airliners of all signatory nations. Second, satellite asset tracking devices, some of which cost less than $100 to purchase and less than $150 per year in tracking service fees per asset/airplane, would allow authorities and owners to track airliners anywhere in the world on Google Maps from a smart phone, laptop, or desktop computer.  These devices, such as the SPOT Trace from Globalstar, can be hidden inside airliners to prevent tampering, operate off battery power for weeks after losing airplane power, and work anywhere in the world.  SPOT satellite tracking devices have been in use for tracking boats, cars, people, private airplanes, and other assets for many years. So with a SPOT Trace on AirAsia Flight 8501, AirAsia and government authorities would have known its flight path from takeoff to the end in almost real-time.  And while FAA certification and standards development will add time and cost to these systems, the need and usefulness are obvious and justify the effort.  So as with deployable recorders, we now just need the NTSB to recommend their use to the FAA and for FAA to require them on all US airliners.  And ICAO should make them a recommended practice for airliners of all signatory nations. (Robert A. Clifford, a senior partner at Clifford Law Offices, in Chicago, has handled and led litigation on behalf of aviation crash victims nationally and internationally for three decades.)  

Air Asia Flight Goes Missing, Wreckage Found Early Tuesday

An Airbus AIR.PA A320-200 operated by Indonesia AirAsia disappeared on Sunday morning on course from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, Reuters reported. As the plane was traveling over the Java Sea, it reportedly encountered a string of violent thunderstorms and massive clouds, at which point the pilot requested to ascend some 6,000 feet to circumvent a cloud, according to the Washington Post.  However, Indonesian dispatchers denied the request, and the plane disappeared within minutes with no distress call reported, according to the Washington Post. On Tuesday, the Daily Beast reported that teams who were searching for the missing aircraft found more than 40 bodies as well as debris from the missing aircraft floating in the Java Sea near Borneo. AirAsia has reportedly confirmed that the debris is in fact from QZ8501, according to the Daily Beast. Military aircrafts searching for the missing aircraft spotted the plane's emergency door, emergency slide, and square metal objects earlier this morning, leading to the eventual discovery, the Daily Beast reported. This latest accident is one in a string of horrific plane incidents that have cast serious doubts about the propriety of the aviation industry in Indonesia, the Washington Post reported. Many officials from Indonesia and around the globe have warned that while the aviation industry in this region has rapidly expanded in demand, companies who operate the aircrafts have been left behind in their supply of aviation experts, regulatory oversight, and equipment, according to the Washington Post. Major issues with the industry are abound, including problems with music stations and phone calls interfering with air traffic control frequencies and a central airport that handled more than three times its intended capacity for passengers in 2013, the Washington Post reported.

Keurig Recalls Millions of Coffee Brewing Systems

Keurig, a company best known for manufacturing easy-to-use, single cup coffee makers, has recalled approximately 6.6 million MIMI Plus Brewing Systems made between 2009 and 2014 in the United States, according to USA Today. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission divulged that the recalls were a response to consumers reporting burn injuries, USA Today reported. In total, Keurig had received 200 reports of hot water spewing out of the brewer, including 90 reports of burn-like injuries, according to CBS News. Keurig has instructed customers to contact the company for a free repair kit for their coffee machines, but in the meantime Keurig pleads with owners of these defective devices to keep at least arm's length away from the brewers and to never brew more than two cups of coffee in a short period of time, CBS News reported.

Approach the Bench: Hon. Henry R. Simmons

Approach the Bench- Hon. Henry R. Simmons.jpg
Hon. Henry R. Simmons.jpgRetired Judge Henry R. Simmons who is the son of former Chicago Public School teachers grew up on the South side of Chicago. His family's strong work ethic provided him with a solid example to build upon throughout his career. He now takes on the position as managing partner at Clifford Law Offices, which is the bulk of all activity at the firm. The intake of every case originates through Judge Simmons. His goal will be to personally review each case in a truthful and empathetic manner.

Follow Up on Indiana Megabus Crash

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that 28 people were injured in a Megabus crash Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014) in downstate Indiana on I-65 that shut down the roadway while rescue crews worked to get people to area hospitals. The driver of the bus has been identified in the media as a 50-year-old man from Olympia Fields, a southern suburb of Chicago, who lost control of the vehicle as he was changing lanes near mile marker 55. Another Megabus crashed in Litchfield, Illinois, on I-55 two years ago and Clifford Law Offices represents five people who suffered injuries in that accident as well as serves as local counsel for a sixth passenger. Clifford Law Offices, which is experienced in bus crash litigation, also represents a family who was injured in yet another Megabus crash in October, just a few months ago, that was headed on that same route to Atlanta, Georgia. The personal injury firm with experience in transportation litigation on behalf of plaintiffs also represents four families who suffered injuries in a bus crash carrying commuters to O'Hare Airport earlier this year - that was not a Megabus involved in that incident. The Megabus incident that occurred this past weekend is still under investigation.  

Megabus Crash in Indiana Injures 27

Yet another Megabus incident reportedly has left more than two dozen people injured as it traveled from Chicago bound for Louisville, Kentucky, about 250 southwest of Chicago. The final stop was to be Atlanta, Georgia. The double-decker Megabus reportedly slid off an Indiana highway near Seymour, Indiana, and flipped on its side, injuring some 27 passengers who were taken to local hospitals. It was reported that 70 people were on board. Rescue crews responded at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014). The Indiana State Police reported that weather and speed contributed to the incident on Interstate 65. In October, just a few months ago, a Megabus on this route on I-65 was involved in another crash south of Indianapolis that injured several people.

Webcast on the Ethics of Conflicts of Interest

On Thursday, February 19, 2015, Clifford Law Offices will sponsor a free two-hour continuing legal education program called "The Ethics of Conflicts of Interest" in the eighth annual Clifford Law Offices Continuing Legal Education Series. The program will provide attendees advice on the following questions:

Clifford Law Offices Aviation Attorneys Available to Speak on Maryland Plane Crash; Black Box Data Indicates Plane Stalled and Pilot Failed to Recover

Clifford Law Offices has dealt with many cases involving aircraft that have crashed due to the stalling of one or more engines and a pilot's failure to recover from the upset. After a press conference today held by officials of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), it was revealed that the initial cause of the plane crash that left six people dead, including two small children, Monday in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was due to just such a failure. The NTSB continues to have investigators on the scene and recovered the black box earlier today (Dec. 9, 2014) from the Embraer twin-engine jet that contained the critical cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder.  Later today, officials there revealed that upon trying to land, the jet carrying three people stalled at 88 knots followed by 20 seconds of stall warning and then the aircraft pitched and rolled until it crashed. Parts of the plane crashed into a house that killed three people, a mother and her two young children, and other debris went flying into two adjacent houses on a cul-de-sac street in the suburb of Washington, D.C., setting them ablaze. Those pieces are being gathered as further evidence. Airplane systems issues and other factors such as ice accretion on the wings can often contribute to pilots failing to maintain airspeed and losing control, and the NTSB investigation of this accident should eventually generate conclusions in those areas. Clifford Law Offices has had extensive experience in handling executive jet crashes and other types of aircraft that resulted in similar tragedies. Stalling of aircraft occurred in the Colgan jet crash that was headed to Buffalo, New York, in 2009 where Clifford Law Offices represented four families. The crash of Asiana Airlines, of which the firm serves as local counsel to several families, also involved the stalling of a commercial aircraft. Attorneys at the firm are available to speak on how this can occur and how it can be prevented to avoid future tragedies like what occurred in Maryland yesterday.  To contact one of the aviation attorneys at Clifford Law Offices, please call the firm's Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909 (cell) or the firm at 312-899-9090.

Black Box Recovered in Maryland Plane Crash

The black box containing information regarding the plane crash in Gaithersburg, Maryland, has been recovered by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators. Monday's (Dec. 8, 2014) crash left six people dead, including two small children, in the suburb of Washington, D.C. The black box contains the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder. Investigators also are reviewing a series of 911 calls that came in after the twin-engine Embraer EMB-500/Phenom 100 reportedly broke into pieces with fuselage crashing into a house and debris hitting two other adjacent homes on the cul-de-sac that also went up in flames. Senior Investigator Timothy LeBaron is leading the NTSB team at the scene. Some witnesses told the press they heard a "sputtering" before the plane went down. CNN is reporting that one of the persons aboard was Michael Rosenberg, CEO of a clinical development company who also happened to be a pilot. It is not yet known if that person was piloting this executive jet that has heading from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to Gaithersburg. Mr. Rosenberg was certified to fly that type of aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records. He also had a close call at that same airport in Maryland in 2010 when he was piloting a plane that left the runway, but he walked away from that incident, according to several media reports.

Small Jet Plane Crashes into Maryland Home: 6 Reported Dead

A small jet plane crashed on Monday morning (December 8th, 2014) into a home located in a residential neighborhood of Gaithersburg, Maryland. ABC News reported that the impact of the plane in the Washington D.C. suburb resulted in a fire that spread to several nearby houses. It was also reported by the Associated Press that the death toll has now reached six - three people who were inside a house that was hit were killed in addition to the three inside the plane that crashed.

School Bus Crash Kills Three in Knoxville, Tennessee

  A tragic crash involving two school buses in Knoxville, Tennessee, killed two children and one adult Tuesday afternoon and injured another 27 people, most of them young children. The horrific event has left the entire community in mourning. Two buses were bringing school children home on a Tennessee highway when one bus reportedly made a sharp left turn and crossed over a concrete median, hitting the second school bus that was traveling in the opposite direction. The crash caused the second bus to flip onto its side and slide, according to several media reports. The children who were tragically killed were in the third grade or younger and the adult was a teacher's aide, according to reports. As many as 20 other children were treated at area hospitals. Witnesses reported that people were running out of their cars to help. The superintendent of one of the schools involved called the event "an unspeakable tragedy." Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reportedly are on the scene to investigate the cause of this terrible crash.

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