Private airplane with the NTSB seal over it

Are NTSB Investigations of Private Airplane Crashes Designed to Ferret Out Truth or Protect Corporations?

USA Today’s reports on the concealed safety issues related to small plane crashes and the shortcomings of the NTSB’s follow up after an accident. Often, a lawsuit is the only way to reveal the true cause.

In a hard-hitting three-part series, USA Today has exposed a system of investigation rigged in favor of airplane and helicopter manufacturers and suppliers. When a tragic general aviation crash claims lives or causes catastrophic injury, the general public has a right to assume that the official investigating agency will rigorously investigate to uncover all the facts that bear on the question of causes and contributing causes. The investigation is supposed to be independent and unbiased, with a “chips fall where they may” attitude. Yet, as the article points out, much too often the agency takes the easy way out and closes the case by simply blaming the pilot. After all, it is only the victims who can complain, and they have no effective clout.

So, how come it is sometimes discovered that, in truth, the pilot was either not to blame at all, or was merely one contributing cause among one or more others? The answer lies in the efforts of those lawyers willing to take a significant personal financial risk to uncover the truth after the NTSB has finished its work.  Those representatives of the victims and their families are at a significant disadvantage because:

The corporations that design and manufacture the airplane or its engines and a myriad of other component parts are allowed to participate alongside the NTSB investigators and bring considerable influence to the process designed to exonerate their product and blame the pilot.

  • Representatives of the victims are barred from the investigation, on the flimsy theory that only they are biased and looking to blame the companies.
  • Very often, the companies have much more expertise than does the NTSB and therefore can sometimes mislead the investigation.
  • There are manufacturers who are frequent participants in aviation crash investigations, and a “chummy” relationship can easily invest trust in questionable propositions, especially when there is no expert other than those hired by the corporations doing the investigation and research.

The consequences of the current system, sadly, is to permit the same manufacturing or design defects to repeatedly devastate air crash victims.  When the truth is allowed to reign supreme and genuinely unbiased and thorough investigations are permitted, lives and heartache will be saved.

We hope that articles like this will help shine the light on a faulty system, toward the end that truly unbiased and revealing investigations will be the rule, rather than the exception in general aviation accident cases.

Commercial aviation disasters have been dramatically reduced because of the keen attention to safety, and we all applaud that result heartily. If reasonable reforms are introduced into the investigation process, and general aviation companies and their suppliers are held to the same rigorous standards as in the commercial aviation arena, all segments will benefit.  Terrible personal losses would be minimized and the severe economic impact caused by catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths would be dramatically reduced.

Read USA Today’s three-part series: Safety last: Lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage

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