On April 17, a woman was killed on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 when the left engine exploded. The twin-engine Boeing 737 was traveling from New York to Dallas with 149 people onboard when shrapnel from the explosion penetrated the aircraft's fuselage and broke a window in the passenger cabin causing depressurization and the deployment of oxygen masks. Jennifer Riordan, a banking executive from New Mexico, was sucked partway out of a nearby window and struck by some of the debris. Several of the passengers ran to pull her back into the cabin and gave her CPR, while other passengers plugged the hole. The flight made an emergency landing in Philadelphia. At least 7 other passengers were injured.
On January 18, 2018, a helicopter crash in New Mexico claimed the lives of two Houstonians. Investor Charles Burnett III and former Pasadena Police Chief, Paul Cobb, were among the dead. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the private UH-1 Huey helicopter crashed at about 6:00 pm in a mountainous and remote area about 15 miles east of Raton Municipal Airport. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
In July 2016, Texas saw the deadliest hot air balloon crash in American history when Alfred "Skip" Nichols piloted his balloon into power lines near Lockhart, killing himself and 15 passengers. It has now been revealed in an October 17 meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington that Nichols was impaired by Valium, opioids, and other medication, and had psychological conditions that affected his decision-making. As quoted by the Associated Press, NTSB medical officer Dr. Nicholas Webster reported that there was enough Benadryl in Nichols' system to have "the impairing effect of a blood-alcohol level" of a drunk driver.
On March 8, 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 left from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing carrying 239 passengers. It disappeared and is believed to be lost in the South Indian Ocean. The official search for the plane or its wreckage was suspended on January 17, 2017, by the Australia Air Safety Investigative Board.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday that a hot air balloon that crashed near Lockhart, Texas likely struck power lines before it crashed. The crash, which occurred on Saturday morning and garnered national media attention, killed all sixteen people aboard. It was the deadliest hot air balloon crash on record in the U.S., eclipsed only by a 2013 crash in Luxor, Egypt that killed 19.
On April 19, 2016, the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential opinion finding that state law product liability claims for defective aircraft are not preempted by federal law. The Third Circuit's opinion holds that neither the Federal Aviation Act or a federal agency's decision to issue a certificate approving of an aircraft design preempt state law product liability claims. In doing so, the court found that the presumption against preemption applies in the context of aviation accident claims. The court also found that the FAA contains a savings clause that expressly reserves state law claims. In reaching these conclusions, the Third Circuit recognized that most other courts and jurisdictions, including the United States Fifth Circuit Court of appeals that oversees federal district courts in Texas, reject preemption of product liability actions for aviation accidents. The Third Circuit noted that "[b]esides preserving principles of federalism, this conclusion avoids interpreting the Federal Aviation Act in a way that would have 'the perverse effect of granting complete immunity from design defect to an entire industry that, in the judgment of Congress, needed more stringent regulation.'" The Third Circuit's decision is a positive step toward universal recognition of an injured person's right to seek recovery for injuries caused by airplane and airplane part manufacturers who place unsafe products in the marketplace.
The deadly crash of an airliner in Nigeria yesterday demonstrates once again the need for vigorous enforcement of safety regulations.