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Flaws during certification can cause plane crashes

Passenger safety is the top priority for government agencies that certify vehicles such as aircraft. Yet airplane crashes happen in Montana and elsewhere. Although everyone knows that stringent safety standards are in place, for some reason design flaws are overlooked, sometimes resulting in aviation accidents.

Usually, technical and mechanical issues are resolved during the design process, thus minimizing controllable and some uncontrollable factors that can cause plane crashes. However, a retired official of the aviation department of the National Transportation Safety Board admitted that the certification of planes depends mostly on human knowledge, which may be imperfect.

A good example is the faulty battery of a popular make and model of passenger airplane that carriers have used for many domestic and international flights. The battery overheated and smoked up, causing delays. Although no one was injured, the potential of a missed design flaw during qualification is at fault for many deaths and injuries. Within the last 20 years, missed or unanticipated safety flaws are linked to 70 percent of the fatalities in U.S. plane crashes.

Besides pilot error, mechanical and technical issues, if overlooked during certification, may place passengers at risk. In an aircraft accident involving a commercial passenger plane carrying many people in a single flight, an overlooked flaw can lead to numerous serious injuries or deaths in a single incident.

If such accident occurs because of the lack of care, victims or their families-whether in Billings, Montana, or anywhere in the country-may feel helpless to overcome the emotional and financial challenges. To cope with such injuries and expenses, victims or survivors may file a lawsuit against the parties who are partly or fully responsible for the accident. Restitution may be made by the airline company, the manufacturer or the government agency with jurisdiction over the certification.

Source: Bloomberg, "Dreamliner Flaw Escaping FAA No Surprise in Crash Data," Alan Levin, March 29, 2013

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