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Safety defects may contribute to aviation accidents

While traditional passenger air travel is considered very safe, general aviation flights may carry a larger risk. On average, more than 1,000 accidents happen each year involving general aviation, which includes medevac helicopters, private planes, business jets and even crop dusters in Pennsylvania and across the rest of the country. Approximately 300 to 400 people are killed in these accidents each year.

According to reports, overconfident or inattentive pilots are often blamed for these accidents, but it may be preventable defects in the parts of the airplanes themselves that are often at fault. An aggressive safety campaign targeted at pilots in the past decades was successful in reducing the rate of general aviation accidents, but progress stalled in the late 1990s.

According to an investigation by USA TODAY, there have been several lawsuits after a pilot was blamed for an accident that showed that the problem was actually a design error or defect. In some cases, the manufacturers are also accused of knowing about the defects and covering it up instead of taking the necessary procedures to fix them. One investigation found that there had been 21 instances of a court holding a manufacturer liable for contributing to an aviation accident after the National Transportation Safety Board had cleared them. The total payout for these verdicts was close to $1 billion.

While statistics are often quoted, sometimes accurately and other times not, that flight transportation is safer than driving a car or riding a motorcycle, manufacturers and pilots alike should be taking all possible steps to make general aviation as safe as possible. When a party is found negligent in an accident that causes injury or death to others, the courts may award the victims compensation.

Source: Source: USA TODAY, "Small-plane overseers come up short on safety: Our view," No author given, July 2, 2014

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