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FAA Issues Rule Requiring Airlines to Utilize Safety Management Systems

On Tuesday (Jan. 6, 2014), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule requiring most U.S. airlines to implement Safety Management Systems (SMS) by 2018, according to an FAA press release. SMS is a formal, organization-wide approach that assists in managing safety risks by providing airlines a set of business procedures to compile data from everyday operations, the FAA press release explained. With this data, airlines are able to isolate trends that may be precursors to accidents and may thus be in a better position to mitigate those dangers at early stages, according to the Aviation Safety Network. In short, SMS describes "what" is expected of airlines and their employees, rather than "how," which is left to airlines themselves, the Aviation Safety Network reported. The rule stipulates that commercial airlines must submit their plans for implementing their SMS within six months, according to the FAA press release. Further, the rule requires each commercial airline to appoint a single, accountable executive to oversee its SMS, the Aviation Safety Network reported. Many commercial airlines already have an SMS in place voluntarily, which has contributed to an 83 percent reduction in fatality risks in the United States for commercial air travel between 1998 and 2008, according to the FAA press release. This new rule will reportedly cost commercial airlines approximately $224.3 million over the next 10 years, but will benefit those airlines ranging from $205 million to $472.3 million over that time period, according to the Aviation Safety Network.


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.

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.

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.

Spaceship Crashes in California Desert, Killing One and Severely Injury Another

A Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two rocket plane exploded and crashed during a test flight Friday, Oct. 31, killing one crew member and seriously injuring another, according to authorities. The fiery crash was captured on video and played on media outlets across the world as the plane dropped away from its carrier airplane and fired up its hybrid rocket engine. The blast scattered debris across a two-mile area of the desert north of Mojave outside of Los Angeles, according to NBC News. One pilot was killed at the scene and the other was able to parachute to the ground and was transferred to Antelope Valley Hospital, according to Kern County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Cody. Both pilots reportedly worked for Mojave-based Scaled Composites, according to reports by NBC News. The test flight was important because Virgin Galactic had planned to use this SpaceShip Two to fly passengers on suborbital trips to the edge of space as early as next year, according to media reports, which also have indicated that a nearly identical rocket is already under construction with more than 700 customers, including celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber having paid as much as $250,000 to take a ride. The pilots on the plane from which the SpaceShip dropped away from called White Knight Two were able to land safely. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team has been at the crash site over the weekend to determine the probable cause of the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also reportedly is investigating the crash. The fatal flight on Halloween was part of SpaceShip Two's years-long test program by Virgin Galactic, a company founded by billionaire Richard Branson who it is said was hoping to be on the first commercial flight next year. He told the media that "'We are determined to find out what went wrong.'" He reportedly flew to the crash site and said that he still "'would like to see the dream living on,'" according to NBC News. Branson said that anyone who wants their money back for a future flight will get a refund, NBC News reported. Friday's crash was the second disaster in less than a week suffered by a private space company. Last Tuesday (Oct. 28) an Antares rocket built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. Exploded after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship full of supplies bound for the International Space Station.

Commemorating the Crash of American Eagle Flight 4184 with a Public Forum

The 68 people who died in the crash of American Eagle Flight 4184 on Oct. 31, 1994, will never be forgotten. To commemorate the tragedy, family members, loved ones and the community touched by the crash 20 years ago have announced a public forum on Oct. 30 entitled: "Public Forum: The Legacy of American Eagle Flight 4184." Guest speakers at this public forum to be held in Merrillville, Indiana, include Greg Feith, Aviation Safety and Security expert and former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator who served as the investigator in charge of the crash of Flight 4184; Charley Pereira, transportation safety and security consultant and former NTSB investigator as well as Flight 4184 Airplane Performance and Icing Group Chairman and co-author of the NTSB's Final Report and Safety Recommendations; Ray Chambers, Director, Newton County EMA, and Fire Chief of the Lincoln Township Fire Department as well as Deputy Coroner and first responder on the scene of the crash of Flight 4184; Paul Sledzik, Director of the Transportation Disaster Assistance Division of the NTSB. America grieved when it learned of the Halloween night crash of that ATR-72 turboprop plane that was en route from Indianapolis to Chicago when it encountered severe icing conditions and crashed into a field near Roselawn, Indiana. The lessons learned and improvements made in aviation safety, emergency response and the coordination of support services of survivors and family members following commercial transportation disasters will be discussed at this important public forum. Clifford Law Offices represented 16 families who lost loved ones in the tragic crash of Flight 4184.  In the process of preparing for trial, lawyers at the firm took 110 depositions to get to the bottom of what occurred.  Robert Clifford sat on the Plaintiff's' Discovery Committee.  The firm obtained a $110 million settlement on the eve of trial in federal court in Chicago for 28 families who had brought suit in a consolidated action. The public forum will be held Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, at the Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza in Merrillville, Indiana, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. CDT. Inquiries can be made at For more information about American Eagle Flight 4184, please visit and Contact in Indiana: Jennifer Stansberry Miller: 317-354-7208 Contact in Chicago area: Terri Henry Severin: 847-354-0949

Beech Baron Safety Studies and Accident History Indicate Previous Take-Off Problems in Wake of Small Plane Crash in Palos Hills, IL Killing Three Doctors

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was on the scene at Palos Hills, a southwest suburb of Chicago, where a 2000 model year, twin-engine Beech Baron 58, tail number N31EW, crashed late Sunday night after takeoff from Chicago's Midway Airport with three Kansas physicians aboard.  All three unfortunately were killed in the accident that apparently came without warning or any signal to air traffic controllers that a problem existed, according to numerous media reports.  Some witnesses reported to police that they heard sputtering and loud airplane noises before the crash, according to the media.  The plane crashed just feet from a house in a densely populated area but no one on the ground was injured.   NTSB officials are studying recorded ground radar and on-board Honeywell Enhanced Ground Proximity System (EGPWS) data, and should be using those data to conduct airplane performance and other studies.  Fuel samples are being analyzed and it appears the airplane took on 20 gallons of fuel at Midway Airport before takeoff to help offset landing fees.  It also appears that NTSB investigators have a reasonable idea of what caused the accident already, but they typically do not release such findings until they complete all of their investigations into the various factors that could have caused the accident.  Results from all of that investigation could take a year or more for the government agency to publically produce via its docket system, followed by their Probable Cause statement as to what caused the plane to go down shortly after takeoff from Midway Airport in Chicago.   Clifford Law Offices, which has represented several people involved in prior Beech aircraft crashes, has reviewed available Beech Baron safety studies and takeoff accident history with findings that most Baron takeoff accidents are related to engine failures followed by control problems or poor engine-out piloting, fuel and fuel system issues, attempts to close doors in-flight after possibly forgetting to latch them, and stalls/loss of control.  Night takeoffs in instrument conditions typically aggravate these factors.   There are thousands of Beech Barons in their various models and configurations flying actively in the United States.  In addition to it being well known for its high cruise speed and load carrying ability, it is also known for its systems complexity and difficult single-engine operation for inexperienced pilots, factors that have resulted in many fatal accidents, loss of control incidents, flat spins from which recovery is all but impossible, and associated NTSB safety recommendations.   Kevin P. Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices and aviation attorney who has taken literally hundreds of depositions of aviation experts in various aspects of aviation accidents, is available to speak further on this issue.   ______________________   For further information or to speak to Kevin Durkin, please contact Clifford Law Offices' Communications Pamela Menaker at 847-721-0909.

Aviation Attorneys at Clifford Law Available to Speak on Small Plane Crash in Palos Hills, IL

NTSB Next Step in Crash Involving Three Physicians Killed in Small Plane Crash in Southern Suburbs   Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are on hand in the southern suburbs investigating the crash that killed three Kansas doctors in a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron aircraft.  Apparently, no distress signal was emitted from the plane and it just dropped from the sky late Sunday night, according to early reports.   Clifford Law Offices has discovered that the airplane was owned by Arc Aviation LLC of Lawrence, Kansas, and was a twin engine with six seats.   "The NTSB will be trying to figure out probable cause of why the aircraft would suddenly crash following the takeoff from Midway Airport Sunday night," said Kevin P. Durkin, partner at Clifford Law Offices and aviation attorney who has handled the cases of nearly every commercial airline crash in the past three decades as well as many small plane cases.  He also has taken the depositions of literally hundreds of aviation experts and airline representatives.  "At this point, nothing can be ruled out.  We should know the identities soon of those who were killed, but apparently early reports indicate that one of the physicians on board had a pilot's license.  The NTSB will be confirming that."   For further information or to speak to an aviation attorney at Clifford Law Offices, please contact Clifford Law Offices' Communications Partner Pamela Sakowicz Menaker at 847-721-0909.

Senior Partner Robert Clifford Featured in Recent Law360 Article

"Titan of the Plaintiff's Bar: Bob Clifford," that's what an article penned by Law360 called senior partner Robert Clifford of Clifford Law Offices. He was touted for his dedication to achieving justice throughout his prestigious 35+year career. The article, published Sept. 26, 2014, describes to readers Clifford's early years in the law, including his time spent clerking for Philip Corboy, his first trial that came only days after being sworn in as a lawyer, and what first attracted him to the field of injury litigation. Particularly, the article cites Clifford's blue-collar upbringing in the south side of Chicago as being particularly influential in driving Clifford to plaintiff's work. The article further describes why Clifford has been particularly attracted to aviation law, which accounts for more than 30 percent of his total caseload. While Clifford Law Offices handles a wide range of injury suits today, Clifford first became involved in aviation litigation during his time working for Corboy in 1979. The case, which involved an aircraft crash near O'Hare stemming from an engine falling off of a wing, embodied everything that attracted Clifford to the law in the first place: unique challenges and complex issues governed by "fluid case decisions." Within the article, Clifford is praised by both former employees and defense attorneys alike. Clifford takes time to reflect on how fortunate he has been to work in a practice that peaks his interest, but makes sure to note that his best work is still to come. Read the full article: Titan of the Plaintiff's Bar: Bob Clifford.

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