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| Shapiro, Appleton, Washburn & Sharp

Conventional wisdom is that the more sophisticated airplanes become, the less likely they are to crash. But a new report has questioned that supposition, suggesting that pilot’s "automation addiction" has undermined their flying skills to the point that the people in the cockpit may no longer know how to deal with mid-flight problems or stalls.

This worrying loss of skills may have contributed to the loss of hundreds of lives in crashes over the last few years. In a news article on the report from the International Air Transport Association, the AP cited "some 51 ‘loss of control’ accidents in which planes stalled in flight or got into unusual positions from which pilots were unable to recover, making it the most common type of airline accident.”

The report is alarming because it suggests pilots may be losing the very specialized skills that got them into the cockpit in the first place. An FAA committee said opportunities for pilots to fly planes manually are now very limited.

As experienced Virginia (VA) mass transit injury attorneys, my colleagues and I have reported on recent tragedies linked to air crew mistakes rather than mechanical faults. For instance, investigators found that crew error likely contributed to the crash of an Air France plane in which 228 people died. Pilots reportedly ignored a number of stall warnings and had insufficient training to deal with the emergency.

As a licensed private airplane pilot, I’m acutely aware that there are few fender benders in the aviation industry. Plane crashes are far rarer than highway accidents, but when they do occur there is a far greater potential for mass casualties. For this reason, a pilot needs to be trained to a much higher level than a truck driver.

In 2009 a high profile case in New York illustrated the need for a skillful pilot rather than an autopilot. ­ Chesley Sullenberger, the veteran pilot of a US Airways jet that lost power in both engines after a bird strike, averted disaster and saved the lives of all 155 people on board when he ditched into the Hudson river moments after take off.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an aircraft crash, I recommend hiring a lawyer who understands aviation law. Personal injury claims derived from plane wrecks are subject to a wide range of laws, treaties and regulations, and it takes dedicated, experienced lawyer to successfully handle an aviation case. Please take a moment to read our Airplane Accident Safety Guide: How to Avoid or Survive Airplane Crash.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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