FAA Inspection Authorization
While performing an engine overhaul on a customer’s single-engine aircraft, an A&P mechanic employed by an FAA-certified aircraft repair station is distracted by a telephone call. Returning to the nearly-completed task, the mechanic replaces the engine cowling without first securing the oil sump drain plug with safety wire, as required by the maintenance manual. The shop foreman, who holds FAA Inspection Authorization, signs off the overhaul and approves the aircraft for return to service without noticing the oversight. The owner-pilot picks up the aircraft and takes off for an engine break-in flight. While in flight, the drain plug vibrates loose, the engine oil is lost overboard and the engine seizes. The pilot makes an emergency landing in what looks like the most suitable spot within gliding range, a plowed field, where the aircraft overturns. The aircraft is substantially damaged and the pilot is seriously injured.
Who is potentially legally liable for these damages and injuries, and why?
A pilot had always dreamed of flying the Alaska bush, but that dream had been sidetracked by the responsibilities to earn a living adequate to support a family. Now that family had emptied the nest, the pilot was able to buy a brand-new short takeoff and landing (STOL) tailwheel bush plane from a local dealer, practice short and soft field landings, take a few months off work, load up the hunting, fishing, and camping gear and head out to fulfill that dream. While making a picture-perfect landing on a gravel bar in an Alaskan river, one of the airplane’s left main landing gear struts collapsed, causing the aircraft to be wrecked, and the pilot seriously injured. The gear collapse was caused by a metallurgical flaw in the strut, which had been manufactured by a subcontractor of the aircraft’s manufacturer. The flaw was present when the subcontractor delivered the part to the manufacturer.
Who is potentially legally liable for the pilot’s injuries, and why? Could it make a difference if the pilot had bought the airplane a long time before the accident? Explain.
Renting an aircraft from an FBO, a college student who is a private pilot heads out on a cross-country trip to spend Thanksgiving at home, bringing along a non-pilot friend. Due to a later than planned start, the two arrive later than anticipated at the last planned fuel stop at a rural airport, only to find the FBO closed and the fuel pumps locked. A cell phone call to the FBO’s number yields a recorded message that the business is closed for the holiday weekend. Estimating that at least an hour’s fuel remains in the aircraft’s tanks, the pilot takes off again, planning to refuel at the next airport along the route. Unfortunately, the pilot’s estimate proves wrong and the aircraft runs out of fuel on approach to the next airport. In the dark, the pilot lands short of the runway and the airplane is destroyed, and the passenger is seriously injured, though the pilot escapes with minor scrapes and bruises.
Is the pilot legally liable for the passenger’s injuries and to the FBO for destroying its airplane? Explain.