The Recent Airline Events

The recent airline events remind us all of how fragile life is. The December 20, 2008 Denver, Colorado “ground crash” of Continental flight 1404 was the start of the major airlines’ episodes. And while this airplane crash ended without a significant number of major physical injuries and no loss of life, the lives of those on board were forever changed by the event. The Boeing 737-500 was accelerating down the runway when an unusual bumping was felt and rattling was heard. Then the plane traveled out of control, veered off the runway, crashed in a ravine and broke apart. There is no doubt many of those passengers and crew members thought their lives would be over. To survive this type of crash was a blessing, but the trauma suffered by those involved should not be downplayed.

Then, the Miracle on the Hudson occurred on January 15, 2009. The US Airways Flight 1549 was involved in a double bird strike which incapacitated both engines causing the crew to resort to well-practiced skills that allowed the Airbus A320 to be glided into the Hudson River. The 155 passengers and crew reacted remarkably to the situation and again there were no lives lost, and relatively few major physical injuries suffered. But one can imagine the fear that went through the passengers’ minds when they were told to brace for a crash landing. We do not normally expect to escape with our lives when we are involved in a crash landing of a commercial airliner. Again the post traumatic stress those survivors must be suffering through is unimaginable for those who have never experienced the disorder first hand — either through suffering from it personally, or witnessing another suffering from it.

And finally, the Continental Connection Flight 3407 (operated by Colgan Air) heading from Newark to Buffalo ended with the catastrophic tragedy that often occurs when a major airliner crashes. Forty-nine people on board, along with one victim on the ground, perished on February 12, 2009 when the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 fell out of the sky striking a house in Clarence Center, New York. By current accounts, the plane reacted violently to some unknown condition and for 26 seconds the plane flew out of control until it crashed and exploded in the early evening. Two family members in the house that was struck survived the crash and explosion, but for all of those two, as well as for the families touched by this calamity, there must be terrible angst and anxiety that is running through each person.

Our firm is no stranger to air crashes. Besides successfully handling aviation litigation involving both commercial and private aircraft for decades, one of our partners and an associate were killed in a private plane tragedy that never lets us forget the pain that not only affects those directly involved suffer — but also the pain those who are not directly related to the victims suffer. At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have been affected by these airline catastrophes.