Plane accidents do not occur as frequently as other types of transportation modes such as cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles and trains but when they do occur the injuries are usually more catastrophic or deadly.
When you hear of an aviation accident usually the first thing you think is that there was a pilot error. Human error plays a large role in plane accidents but the mistake may not be the pilots fault and the error could have been by caused by the ground crew, mechanics, maintenance personnel or the air traffic controller (ATC).
After you are on a plane and taxiing on the runway you may see a tower high in the air near the airport terminal. In that tower sits the air traffic controller. The air traffic controller is responsible for giving directions and notifications to airplanes on the ground and in the air. Unlike pilots, ATC's are responsible for multiple planes or flights at the same time. Because any error caused by an air traffic controller can lead to two planes colliding and causing hundreds of passengers to become catastrophically injured or killed, the ATC must follow strict rules and regulations in order to keep the pilots, crews and passengers safe.
The responsibilities of Air Traffic Controllers include:
- Directing pilots to the runway
- Organize takeoffs
- Organize landings
- Alert pilots of other aircraft or planes in the sky
- Assist with directing planes en route to their destinations
- Maintain contact with pilot during the entire flight
- Monitor weather conditions
- Direct ground, maintenance and baggage crew
Because air traffic controllers work in high paced and high stressed working conditions, they may be prone to making decision errors if they are not careful. Some of the more common causes of air traffic controller error are:
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Falling asleep at the tower or while on watch (which is what happened at Reagan National Airport)
- Intoxication or under the influence of drugs or medications
- Very heavy air traffic
- Improper training
- Using a cell phone while on duty (which is what caused two planes to collide over the Hudson River)
- Texting while on watch
- Improperly vectoring or directing the plane
- Miscommunication with pilots or ground crew
- Poor judgment
- Negligent guiding of planes in bad weather including storms, fog, ice and tornadoes
- Failure to keep planes at a safe distance from one another
- Failure to prevent runway incursions such as stray baggage carts or a plane that made a wrong turn.
- Failure to maintain communication with planes
Any failure on behalf of an air traffic controller can lead to an airplane crash, runway accident or mid-air collision. Here at the Beasley aviation law firm, Jim Beasley is not only an attorney and a physician but also an accomplished stunt pilot, with commercial and multi-engine instrument ratings, and is one of the few pilots in the world qualified to operate high performance World War II fighter aircraft, such as the North American P-51 Mustang and the immortal Super marine Spitfire. He is one of a dozen civilian pilots chosen by the U.S. Air Force to fly these classic fighters alongside today's operational fighters at air shows around the world. Jim's knowledge and expertise in all areas pertaining to airplanes and aircraft has made him a leader in aviation negligence law. The Beasley Firm has decades of experience representing victims of the most serious and high-profile aviation accidents, including the accident that took the life of Senator John Heinz. If you or a loved one was injured or killed due to a plane accident or aircraft crash please feel free to contact our airplane experts at (215) 866-2424 for a strictly confidential and free consultation.