Aviation accident litigation with a partner from a law firm that specializes in that topic. In the news, some distressing recent air traffic controller behavior, the FAA acts on Safety Team recommendations, three United Airlines employees are accused of accepting bribes, a cargo drone airline achieves first flight, the Collings Foundation ends their air tours, and Alaska Airlines looks to acquire Hawaiian Airlines.
Erin Applebaum is a Partner at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP. Within Kreindler’s aviation practice, she focuses on representing individuals who are injured or killed in general aviation accidents and commercial airline disasters.
Erin currently serves on the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 Boeing 737 MAX litigation against Boeing and other defendants. She is also part of the team challenging the Deferred Prosecution Agreement between Boeing and the Department of Justice.
Erin maintains a robust practice of representing passengers who have been seriously injured during commercial flights. She specializes in litigating claims governed by the Montreal Convention and teaches a popular aviation accident CLE course for other attorneys – “Montreal Convention for Plaintiffs’ Lawyers: Representing Passenger Personal Injury Claims Arising on International Flights.” For the highly respected, industry-wide publication, “Annals of Air and Space Law,” published by McGill University, Erin contributed her insight on a recent landmark decision regarding British Airways and the application of the Montreal Convention to injuries caused by unexpected conditions present during passenger disembarkation from international flights.
Erin is a member of several legal professional groups. She was recently appointed Co-Chair of the New York City Bar Association’s Aeronautics Committee, serves as a Vice Chair on the American Bar Association’s Aviation and Space Law Committee, and is an active member of the American Association for Justice and the International Aviation Women’s Association.
Some distressing recent ATC incidents have been reported: a drunk controller, one who smoked marijuana during breaks, and an employee who threatened and “aggressively pushed” another who was directing airplanes. There are more reports of sleeping on the job and working under the influence. A New York Times investigation found that air traffic controllers are fatigued, distracted, and demoralized and are increasingly prone to making mistakes.
With the release of the National Airspace System Safety Review Team report, the FAA is taking immediate action to enhance air traffic controller training and safety reporting:
- The FAA will work with Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program colleges and universities to ensure that graduates from these programs have the necessary skills to begin on-the-job training at a facility. These graduates still must pass the Air Traffic Skills Assessment (ATSA) exam and meet medical and security requirements. Previously, these graduates were required to attend the FAA Air Traffic Controller Academy before being assigned to a facility.
- FAA announced a year-round hiring track for experienced controllers from the military and private industry.
- FAA will keep filling every seat at the FAA Academy and increase classroom capacity beyond current limits.
- FAA will expand the use of advanced training across the country. The agency has new facilities in Chicago and San Diego and will be adding them in Nashua and Phoenix in the spring.
- Finish deploying tower simulator systems in 95 facilities by December 2025. The FAA will deploy the first system in Austin by January 2024.
- To strengthen the safety culture, the FAA will provide reports from the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to the FAA Administrator and Aviation Safety Associate Administrator.
Three United Airlines Employees Accepted Bribes to Award ‘Lucrative’ Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation Contracts at Newark Airport
Following a Federal probe, three United Airlines employees pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks that included renovating their homes and receiving Rolex watches. This was in exchange for awarding contracts to a company that offered higher prices than at least two other competitors. United has terminated all three employees: a corporate real estate director, an airline senior manager, and a contractor.
Qatar Airways Cargo and cargo drone airline Dronamics have partnered, initially to link the Dronamics droneports in Greece with Qatar’s worldwide network. The Black Swan remotely piloted aircraft has a 26-foot fuselage with a 52-foot wingspan, 770 lb cargo capacity, a 1,550-mile range, and a top speed of 125 mph. Dronamics was established in 2014 and calls itself “the world’s first cargo drone airline.”
The Collings Foundation American Heritage Museum newsletter says, “In the wake of the 2019 B-17 Flying Fortress accident… We are moving forward on our long-term plans to bring the aircraft from a nationwide flying exhibition to permanent display here in Massachusetts.” The Wings of Freedom tour brought access to World War II aircraft like the Boeing B-17G, B-25, B-24, and P-51D. Rides on those aircraft were offered as part of a monetary contribution to the Foundation.
The American Heritage Museum is a 501(c)(3) organization located in Hudson, Massachusetts. It displays 50 aircraft and over 90 vehicles from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard vehicles, as well as some from other nations. The museum also has some large artifacts like a rebuilt Hanoi Hilton POW cell and a part of the Berlin Wall.
Under the all-cash transaction, Alaska would buy Hawaiian for $18 per share, valued at $1.9 Billion (which includes $0.9 Billion of Hawaiian Airlines net debt), and operate the airline as an independent brand. Alaska said it plans to expand Hawaiian’s Honolulu hub to enable “greater international connectivity for West Coast travelers throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”
The transaction agreement has been approved by both boards and is conditioned on regulatory approvals, approval by Hawaiian Holdings, Inc. shareholders (which is expected to be sought in the first quarter of 2024), and other customary closing conditions. It is expected to close in 12-18 months. The combined organization will be based in Seattle under the leadership of Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci.
Press Release: Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines to merge
The GippsAero GA-8 Airvan, which in more recent years became known as the Airvan 8, has been a success story of Australia’s aviation industry over its many years of production. Originally known as Gippsland Aeronautics, the company was founded in 1977 by Peter Furlong at the Latrobe Valley Regional Airport in eastern Victoria. He was joined by George Morgan in 1984 and together they developed the GA200 Fatman crop sprayer and the GA8 utility aircraft. The company was purchased by Mahindra Aerospace in 2009, with production continuing until 2020.
But there’s good news! George Morgan has now re-acquired the company and he has a vision to get the GA8 back into production in coming years. This could see the eventual restoration of a large number of local manufacturing jobs, along with maintenance and other work along the way.
New LCC Bonza Air has raised the ire of many, canceling all of their new Gold Coast to Darwin flights for the entire month of December. The move has left hundreds of passengers stranded and unable to get a satisfactory response from Bonza’s app-based contact system. The route was announced in September and had been scheduled to commence this week.
Does the move signal troubled times ahead for the fledgling new Australian carrier? Time will tell, but they will need to improve their customer contact methods, and quickly.
Virgin Australia have announced plans to increase their current order book for Boeing 737 Max-8s to 14, with 3 already delivered, and a planned fleet of 39. Up until this point, the 737 Max models haven’t been seen in large numbers in this part of the world, and with Qantas looking to progressively replace their 737 fleet with A320s, Virgin will eventually become the nation’s largest operator of the type.
Virgin is also aiming to rekindle its former partnership arrangement with Air New Zealand, following a break of five years. The codeshare agreement would be most beneficial to VA passengers wanting to cross the Tasman, after the airline cut back services to all New Zealand destinations except Queenstown, as they contracted operations to focus on Australia during financial restructuring in recent years.
Hosts this Episode
Max Flight, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.