Aviation Accidents Caused by Poor Maintenance

Posted on

The late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a frightful number of maintenance-related aviation accidents and incidents. Statistically speaking, according to the FAA:

  • About 20% of all aircraft accidents are a result of a machine failure, most of them being related to a maintenance factor.
  • As much as 80% of all aviation accidents have been caused by human factors.

Eventually, Transport Canada developed the concept of the twelve major human factors likely to reduce an individual's ability to execute his duties effectively and safely, leading to maintenance errors.

These factors, known as the "Dirty Dozen," are now considered by the aviation industry a cornerstone of human errors in maintenance. Learning about the Dirty Dozen makes it easier to prevent and manage those human factors that lead to errors and tragic aviation accidents.

What Are the Most Common Maintenance Errors?

So, what exactly does this Dirty Dozen consist of? The twelve human errors include:

  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Lack of teamwork
  • Lack of assertiveness
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of awareness
  • Distraction
  • Pressure
  • Complacency
  • Fatigue
  • Norms
  • Stress

In-depth studies have shed light on some of the most commonly occurring discrepancies during maintenance. Here is a comprehensive list of prevalent maintenance errors:

  • Faulty installation of components
  • Assembling wrong parts
  • Crossing connections (discrepancies in electrical wiring)
  • Tools/parts forgotten in the aircraft
  • Lubrication failure
  • Lock pins not removed
  • Unsecured access panels, fairings, cowlings, fuel or oil caps

Three Plane Crashes Caused by Maintenance Errors That Changed Aviation

  • 'A Lufthansa Airbus A320 almost crashed due to a reversed wiring of the flight controls.'

It was March 20, 2001, when a Lufthansa Airbus A320 almost crashed shortly after takeoff, simply because of the reversed wiring in the captain's sidestick flight control. Fortunately, due to the co-pilot's quick reaction, whose side stick was not faulty, a tragic crash was prevented. The investigation focused on the maintenance of the captain's controls that was done just before the flight. It was found that during the previous flight, there was a problem with one of the two elevator/aileron computers (ELAC):

  • An electrical pin in the connector was damaged and was duly replaced.
  • It was later found that the two pairs of pins within the connector were accidentally switched during maintenance.
  • This caused a change in polarity in the side stick, resulting in the "bypassing" of the control unit (which might have sensed the error).

There might have been "clues" seen on the electronic centralized aircraft monitor (ECAM) screen during the flight control checks, but pilots often only verify a deflection indication and not the direction. Before the aircraft left, the mechanic performed a flight control check, but only with the first officer's sidestick.

  • 'A ValuJet Airlines McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 crashed into the Everglades about 11 minutes after taking off.'

The flight was regularly scheduled from Miami to Atlanta, but on May 11, 1996, the plane crashed into the Everglades only about 11 minutes after taking off due to a cargo compartment fire caused by improper storage. The crash killed all 110 passengers on board. Because the airline already had a bad reputation before the crash, this accident shed light on the airline's problems. ValuJet was suspended for several months after the aforementioned accident. When they resumed operations, their reputation was so tarnished that they had to merge with AirTran Airways and go through a rebranding process. To date, this accident remains one of the deadliest aviation accidents in the history of Florida.

  • 'Delta Air Lines Flight 1288 experienced an uncontained, catastrophic turbine engine failure.'

The regular flight from Pensacola, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia, on a McDonnell Douglas MD-88 with Pratt & Whitney JT8D-219 turbofan engines, went through an uncontained, disastrous turbine engine failure. The leading cause of the accident was the debris from a compressor hub on an engine that penetrated the left aft fuselage. Two passengers were killed during this incident, and two more were badly injured. Fortunately, the pilot was able to abort the takeoff, and the plane was stopped on the runway.

What to Do If You Are Involved in an Aviation Accident in Miami

As with any vehicle accident, a person involved in an airplane crash landing or runway accident is eligible to take legal action - as per legal regulations - against either:

  • The pilot
  • The airline
  • The airplane manufacturer

If an aviation attorney can prove that the negligence of one of the parties mentioned caused your injury, then you are eligible for compensation. Other organizations or businesses that might have to face legal recourse are the ones responsible for:

  • The operation of the plane
  • The construction of the plane
  • The maintenance of the plane

Other parties that could also be liable include:

  • The designers of specific parts that malfunctioned
  • The manufacturers of these parts
  • The marketers of these parts
  • The pilots' employers
  • The original designers
  • Any person involved in the aircraft's failure

When dealing with such an incident, it is highly recommended to hire an experienced attorney who will make sure that you will receive the maximum amount of compensation. At The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary, we understand what you are going through, and we know how to help. We are a results-oriented law firm committed to justice for every client we represent.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this site is not formal legal advice, also the site does not allow you to form an attorney-client relationship.