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Strapping myself into a tiny plane seat, elbow to elbow with the passenger next to me as the flight attendants pantomime safety instructions from the isle, I hope that this will be a flight without incident. But then again, the passengers on the Airbus 300 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, probably thought the same thing.

New information based on cockpit recordings retrieved from the wreckage of the Air France F-GZCP plane have bolstered mandatory training for all of the airline’s pilots to help them fly planes manually. This was a bit of a shock. I had always assumed pilots could fly planes manually. Apparently in the Air France crash in which 228 people were killed, the pilots had no idea they were stalling and made no mention of the stall warning that alerted them several times before the crash.

The copilot who had the controls in the final doomed moment of the flight after the plane stalled and began to plummet was flying manually and maintained a nose-up input — contrary to the normal procedure to come out of an aerodynamic stall. Normally, the nose should be pointed slightly downward to regain lift in such a stall.

Crash investigators pointed out in their report that the copilots did not alert pssengers about the problem. So what rights do the families of these passengers have in light of this new plane crash accident information? As experienced personal injury attorneys, my colleagues and I know that representing plaintiffs in cases stemming from mass transit accidents such as large plane crashes is complicated, often involving the application of laws from different states and countries. I am a licensd pilot myself, so I believe I can bring a unique perspective to these types of injury cases.

You may be surprised to learn that more than 70 percent of airplane accidents are caused by either pilot error or mechanical failure, as was the case with this Air France case. If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an aircraft accident you need to take a moment to read our firm’s 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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