A Danbury, Connecticut man was killed after his kit-built, single-engine plane crashed as he was about to take off from a West Virginia airfield. The recently completed Arion Lightening reportedly careened off the runway at the Green Landings airfield and struck a nearby house. While the occupants of the house fortunately escaped harm, Harry Weber, a 70-year old retired pilot, died at the plane’s controls.
So far, the reason for the crash is unknown. It is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. Some naturally speculate that there was a flaw in the plane, either in its construction or its design. “[Weber] was an excellent pilot,” said Frank Giumarra of Danbury. “I can’t believe he did anything stupid.”
Weber used to fly commercial jets for Pan Am, logging over 100,000 hours since becoming a pilot 50 years ago. As a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, he was also an enthusiast about building and restoring his own aircraft. Weber traveled frequently to West Virginia to build the Lightening, a project that took seven months. Weber had completed one flight on the new plane prior to his latest attempt. His neighbors remembered him fondly and with sadness.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm understand that flying a private plane is an exciting hobby for many people. As with any exciting hobby, it carries several dangers. Many people with private planes lack Harry Weber’s experience and attempt maneuvers that quickly go out of control. They believe that just because they have a license, they are capable of handling a plane in all conditions. At the same time, Weber’s case shows that plane crashes can happen under any circumstances, even when the plane is guided by a seasoned hand. The sad question for the deceased person’s family members is whether pilot error caused the crash or a defect in the plane.
If evidence reveals that a defect in the plane caused the crash, the family might consider hiring a West Virginia product liability attorney and filing a product liability lawsuit against the plane’s manufacturer. To be successful, the family would need to show that the plane had a manufacturing or design defect. This defect made the plane unreasonably dangerous, which caused the accident that resulted in your loved one’s death. It might be difficult to prove a manufacturing defect — where the one plane has serious flaws coming off of the assembly line — if the plane crash leaves few remains. However, records from the manufacturer or elsewhere might reveal problems with the plane that went uncorrected.
What if you are not a member of the pilot’s family, but the owner of the house that was crashed into? If you or your loved ones were injured, you could file a lawsuit against both the pilot’s estate and the manufacturer. If both are responsible for your injury and property damage, you could hold them jointly and severally liable. Joint and several liability means that either one is responsible for paying the full amount of any monetary award given by the jury.