The family of a decorated combat veteran killed in an AH-6M “Little Bird” helicopter crash at Fort Benning, Georgia in 2011, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Case Number 3:13-cv-01069) on July 29, 2013, alleging that the AH-6M helicopter (tail number 06-25380), a light attack/reconnaissance helicopter, experienced numerous mechanical failures caused by manufacturer defects, and even after the pilots performed prescribed emergency procedures, they were unable to control either the malfunctioning engines or the aircraft.
On August 8, 2011, Chief Warrant Officer Steven Redd and Captain David Hortman were flying the AH-6M helicopter in a routine training exercise at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Redd, a decorated combat veteran with 12 deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, was the pilot-in-command, though both Redd and Hortman were accomplished pilots who were both completely capable of controlling the aircraft at any time.
After the two had performed their second over-flight of the training area, they announced that they needed to land immediately. The flight lead observed the aircraft begin to descend at an altitude of about 100 feet, making a slight right turn. The pilot(s) reported to the flight lead in a panicked voice, “I’m going in.” The helicopter then hit the tops of trees near the training area before impacting the terrain nose-down. Both Redd and Hortman were killed as a result.
The wife and three children of Steven Redd are alleging four distinct causes of action including product liability, breach of contract, punitive damages and fraud against Goodrich Corporation of Charlotte, North Carolina; Goodrich Pump and Engine Controls of West Hartford, Connecticut; Rolls-Royce of North America, Inc. of Reston, Virginia; Allison Engine Company of Indianapolis, Indiana; Boeing Company of Chicago, Illinois, and; MD Helicopters of Mesa, Arizona.
The lawsuit claims that through manufacturing flaws and quality assurance failures, the defendants provided an unreliable, un-airworthy, and defectively manufactured helicopter, engine, fuel control system, and other flight system components that resulted in the fatal accident.
The AH-6M “Little Bird” helicopter is manufactured for the U.S. Army based upon the design and testing of a commercially available civilian helicopter certified for civilian flight by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The manufacturers of the Little Bird, including the helicopter’s engine and components, were under contract to provide the government with aircraft that meet performance requirements and safety standards. However, the design and manufacture of the Little Bird was and is defective, unreasonably dangerous, and un-crashworthy, according to allegations in the lawsuit.
One of the key components that failed in the August 8 crash, the lawsuit alleges, was the EMC-35 FADEC, an engine component designed to provide the pilot with full engine control throughout the operating envelope. The FADEC has a single channel, a single point of failure, zero redundancies and doesn’t allow the engine to produce full rated power throughout its certified envelope. The FADEC has been a documented source of numerous problems and has been replaced or upgraded in commercial aircraft.
Punitive damages are sought on the basis of allegations in the complaint that the manufacturers knew about the flaws with the helicopter and its components and did nothing to warn the government of the dangers posed to men and women in uniform, senselessly putting them in harm’s way. It is alleged that the defendants knew that the Little Bird, its engine, and components were defective; yet, the complaint contends, they concealed these defects, even though the consequences of this deception would ultimately lead to the deaths of Chief Warrant Officer Steven Redd and Captain David Hortman.
According to the complaint, the defendants knew, beginning at least in 2007, that the AH-6M Little Bird helicopter was unreasonably dangerous and prone to failure by virtue of multiple previous failures of the AH-6M Little Bird helicopter, its engine, FADEC, and other components, yet they knowingly concealed this information from the government and specifically from the Army.
“Men and women serving in the military put their lives on the line every day and deserve equipment that meets the highest standards of safety and reliability. Selling aircraft and other equipment to the government knowing it to be defective and dangerous is a serious breach of the public trust and leads directly to senseless tragedy and loss of life” stated Timothy Loranger, a Baum Hedlund pilot-attorney, military aircraft mechanic, and Marine veteran, representing Steven Redd’s wife and three children.
About Steven Redd
Steven B. Redd, a native of Lancaster, California, joined the U.S. Army in 1992. He was a mission qualified AH-6M aviator and platoon leader, with awards that include the Meritorious Service Medal, three Air Medals, four Army Commendation Medals, eight Army Achievement Medals, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, three Army Good Conduct Medals, two National Defense Service Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War On Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War On Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, Combat Action Badge, NATO Medal, Senior Army Aviator Badge, Senior Rated Jumpmaster Parachutist Badge, and the Ranger Tab. Steven was 37 when he died.
About Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, P.C., has been representing the victims of aviation disasters since the early 1970s. The law firm has represented nearly 600 victims of aviation crashes, including dozens of product liability claims against helicopter manufacturers, such as McDonnell Douglas, Aerospatiale, Robinson Helicopter Company, Hughes Helicopters, Bell Helicopter Textron and Sikorsky.
- Military.com: Lawsuit Filed in Deadly Helo Crash at Fort Benning