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Father Sues Piper Aircraft for Poorly Designed Aircraft

A father who lost his daughter in a November 2010 crash involving a Piper Seminole plane is suing the plane's maker and several other companies named in the suit for strict liability and negligence. The plaintiff's 26-year-old daughter, a certified flight instructor, was a passenger on Piper Seminole four-passenger aircraft with the pilot and two other passengers when shortly after takeoff the pilot reported losing one of the engines.

The pilot received clearance to land from the control tower, however the plane crashed into the runway. Amazingly all four people onboard the aircraft survived the plane crash, but 3 of them were burned to death when the plane burst into flames immediately following impact. One passenger was taken to the hospital where he died from severe burns and smoke inhalation. The father claims the airplane's manufacturer knew of the design defects in the fuel lines in their aircraft.

The complaint also outlines other design flaws in the aircraft beyond the fuel delivery and metering system. Piper used a stainless steel muffler in the Seminole model, despite knowing that this material was unsuitable for that purpose. It basically guaranteed the engine's failure, according to the suit. Considering that both Piper and Lycoming, also named in the suit, were both involved in decades old studies sponsored by the FAA that found stainless steel to be brittle and when a fracture occurred, failure was imminent.

The fuel lines were mounted in the aircraft's frame in such a way that when they ruptured they would dump fuel near the aircraft's occupants making it inevitable that a fire would occur after a crash. Other design deficiencies were also listed in the complaint. The Seminole's design basically guaranteed severe injury, incapacitation or death in the event of a sudden impact or crash landing.

No report on whether other family members of the victims were considering a suit. The father's wrongful death suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the wrongful death of his daughter.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Father Blames Piper for Fatal Air Crash," Marimer Matos, April 16, 2012

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