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January 13, 2013

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

FAA orders review of Boeing 787 Dreamliners following week of incidents

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

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A Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner sits idle on the tarmac at Boston’s Logan International Airport following a electrical fire on board.
Image: Patrick Mannion.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a review Friday into the design and manufacture of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, following five incidents in five days involving the aircraft and two Japanese airlines.

On Monday, an electrical fire broke out aboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston’s Logan International Airport, when a battery pack which powers the auxiliary power unit, for when the plane is on the ground, caught fire. The fire was discovered by maintenance workers after passengers and crew disembarked following their flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

The next day, a separate Japan Airlines 787, also at Logan International Airport, heading to Tokyo, suffered a fuel leak that spilled around 40 gallons, which was spotted by the crew of the aircraft taxiing behind them. “That Japan Air may know it, but they’ve got fuel or something spilling out the outboard left wing. Quite a bit,” said the pilot of aircraft behind them on local air traffic control frequencies.

Wednesday, in Japan, an All Nippon Airways 787, the launch customer for the aircraft, cancelled a flight after a brake problem was reported.

Earlier Friday, two All Nippon Airways suffered separate incidents in Japan. An oil leak was noticed in the engine after one aircraft had landed in Miyazaki, coming from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Another flight, flying between Haneda Airport and Matsuyama said the pilot’s side window in the cockpit suffered a crack.

The FAA in a statement said “In light of a series of recent events, the FAA will conduct a comprehensive review of the Boeing 787 critical systems, including the design, manufacture and assembly.” Further adding, “The purpose of the review is to validate the work conducted during the certification process and further ensure that the aircraft meets the FAA’s high level of safety.”

According to the statement, “The review will also examine how the electrical and mechanical systems interact with each other.” The Boeing 787 relies more on electrical, as opposed to mechanical, systems than past aircraft from the manufacturer including having electronics operate hydraulic pumps and using electric brakes. Large portions of the plane’s structure use lightweight carbon fiber composite instead of more traditional metal airframe.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “The safety of the traveling public is our top priority […] This review will help us look at the root causes and do everything we can to safeguard against similar events in the future.”

“We are confident that the aircraft is safe. But we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening,” said newly sworn-in FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta. “We are conducting the review to further ensure that the aircraft meets our high safety standards.”

Boeing released a statement saying, “[The company] is confident in the design and performance of the 787. It is a safe and efficient airplane. The airplane has logged 50,000 hours of flight and there are more than 150 flights occurring daily.”



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December 22, 2011

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

Cypriot court clears all of wrongdoing in Greek air disaster

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

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This computer generated image shows the unresponsive aircraft being shadowed by Greek fighter jets.
Image: Anynobody.

A two-year trial concluded yesterday in Cyprus with the court in Nicosia clearing former senior staff of Helios Airways of manslaughter. They, alongside the defunct airline, had been accused of responsibility for killing 119 in a crash near Athens.

All 121 on board Flight 522 were killed but the prosecution did not charge manslaughter in relation to the two flight crew, deeming them partially responsible for their own deaths. The accident remains the worst air disaster to befall both Greece and Cyprus. Most victims were Cypriot tourists.

The Cypriot jet left Larnaca on August 14, 2005. It was headed for Prague in the Czech Republic. Contact was quickly lost with the aircraft, which flew itself as far as the Greek capital on autopilot.

The Boeing 737‘s pressurisation system is believed to have been incorrectly set by maintenance and oxygen starvation had knocked out German Captain Hans-Jurgen Merten and Cypriot co-pilot Pambos Charalambous. They never checked the system before takeoff, which had undergone testing prior to flight.

An alarm had sounded both on the ground and in the air but had been ignored by those flying, as the same alarm was used for a different problem and the pilots therefore misinterpreted the alarm. This design would later be cited by victims’ relatives in a civil case against Boeing.

As the unresponsive jet entered Greek airspace two F-16 fighter jets intercepted. The air force reported back that the civilian craft’s pilots were slumped over the controls. Passengers were similarly incapacitated. The plane reached Athens International Airport — an intermediate stop in Athens was planned — by itself and then began circling the area awaiting human input.

That input eventually came in the form of a trainee pilot working on-board as a flight attendant. Investigators believe Andreas Prodromou had used multiple crew oxygen cylinders to be the last conscious person on board. The fighter pilots were able to watch him enter the cockpit.

Map of the flight path.
Image: Mysid.

F-16 pilot Panayiotis Athanasopoulos was the last person to see Prodromou alive. He previously told the trial of initially receiving no response when signalling the jet in an attempt to get the pilots to follow him, then discovering the flight crew unconscious. The captain was out of sight. He testified he also signalled people wearing oxygen masks in the passenger cabin with similar lack of response. Prodromou, 25, entered the cockpit as the jet began losing altitude.

After trying but failing to resuscitate Merten, the fighter pilots saw the trainee pilot take over the controls himself in a bid to save the plane. He was out of time. By then the aircraft had been in the air for two hours, and it ran out of fuel before it could reach the runway. Although many were deeply comatose from lack of oxygen, everyone on board was still alive when the plane crashed into a mountain at Grammatiko, north of Athens.

Athanasopoulos says he gesticulated to Proprodomou and signalled him to land upon getting his attention. The trainee pilot simply pointed downwards, after which he “looked ahead and did not look towards me again as the plane went down”. The airliner struck the ground levelly on its underside after straightening out moments before impact. It was torn apart.

The following year saw an air accident report primarily citing human error, and an inquiry by ex-Judge Panayiotis Kallis. The Kallis report was never made public. Helios, which was renamed Ajet Airways, closed down in 2006. Helios and Boeing were sued by victims’ relatives; they sought 76 million but reached a settlement for an undisclosed sum. The accident report had also blamed Boeing for an “ineffectiveness of measures” over the dual-purpose alarm system.

The five defendants were charged in 2008. The defunct airline and four senior staff members each faced 119 counts of manslaughter, and alternative counts of causing death by a reckless, thoughtless or dangerous act. This gave a total of 1,190 charges. Manslaughter carries a potential life sentence with up to four years available on the lesser charge. “The charges concern two of the three most serious offences under the Cyprus penal code,” deputy attorney general Akis Papasavvas said at the time.

The prosecution case was that the pilots were unfit to fly and the defendants were negligent in letting them at the controls. The state prosecutor therefore needed to prove the actions of Merten and Charalambous caused the disaster, as well as that those in the dock were responsible for their employment and aware — or ought to have been aware — of inadequacies in their competence.

The prosecution had noted the accused failed to seek references from Jet2, Merten’s last employer. He lost that job owing to failings in his duties and was later the subject of Helios co-pilots’ complaints. Charalambous was considered unlikely to achieve promotion to pilot and his ability to handle stress was questioned at trial.

A file photo of the aircraft from less than a year before it crashed.
Image: Alan Lebeda.

In reaching a majority decision, two of the three judges noted Helios chief executive Andreas Drakos and managing director Demetris Pantazis would be acquitted even if the prosecution proved its case as they were not responsible for employing the pair. This fell to co-accused operations manager George Kikkides and chief pilot Ianko Stoimenov.

In any event, the verdict described “a dead-end for any procedure of identifying the competence of Merten” with only Jet2 among his previous employers being known to have a negative view of him. Subsequent official evaluations rated both him and Charalambous suitably competent to fly.

“The lack of any causal association between the defendants and the negligence they were charged with for the fatal accident completely disconnects the defendants with the accident,” said the 170-page verdict. “Regardless… [of] how the charges are viewed, they remain groundless and without supporting evidence. It’s judged that this reason is sufficient to dismiss all charges and acquit all defendants.”

Assize Court President Charis Solomonides read the decision: “we conclude, without reservation, that no case has been proven prima-facie against all the defendants in all the charges they face and therefore, all the defendants are acquitted and charges are dropped.” Solomonides made repeated mention of an inability for the prosecution to link the pilots’ actions to those on trial, and noted that therefore no assessment had been made of their performance that day.

Judge Nicolas Santis dissented. Nonetheless, he too had criticisms of the prosecution. He said they failed to properly define ‘competence’ and called very few experts to testify. Victims’ relatives shouted in the courtroom after he finished reading his opinion; cries included “killers!” and “is this justice?”.

Victims’ relatives had in fact predicted the acquittal and blamed the state for what they characterised as a poorly presented case. Relatives’ Committee president Nicolas Yiasoumis said “It was common knowledge that proceedings were weak due to the phrasing of the charges.” There were also renewed calls for publication of the Kallis report. Yiasoumis claimed the Kallis report reached different conclusions to those used at trial, and said “We did not believe they could be convicted on the basis of the argument that they had not employed the appropriate staff.”

Attorney General Petros Clerides initially said an appeal will be decided upon once the decision has been read, and that the Law Office was presently studying it. Yiasoumis said relatives may take Cyprus to a European court over the case once Cypriot legal matters are concluded. Clerides has now confirmed an appeal will be filed, which the prosecution has two weeks to do. He defended the performance of those who prosecuted “this titanic case”. The appeal would be to the Supreme Court.



Related news

  • Cypriot court begins Greek air disaster trial” — Wikinews, September 17, 2009
  • “Cyprus charges five over 2005 air crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, December 23, 2008
  • “Cyprus to charge five over 2005 plane crash that killed 121” — Wikinews, November 4, 2008
  • “Coroner makes first post mortems of Athens airliner crash victims; text message was a hoax” — Wikinews, August 15, 2005
  • “Cypriot plane with 121 on board crashes in Greece” — Wikinews, August 14, 2005

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August 8, 2011

Boeing rolls out first 787 Dreamliner to go into service

Boeing rolls out first 787 Dreamliner to go into service

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Aviation

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The first flight of a B787, back in December 2009

Three years after it was first due for delivery, Boeing has rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner that is to be delivered to a customer. Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) were to take delivery in May 2008, but will now receive the aircraft next month.

The plane promises increased fuel efficiency as it is the first model to be built out of plastic and carbon composites, more lightweight than conventional materials. Boeing says they have 800 orders at $200 million per aircraft. Launch customer ANA have ordered 55.

Delayed by Boeing’s outsourcing system to a variety of subcontractors, two models have been developed. The 787-8 holds between 210 and 250 passengers; the 787-9 holds 250 to 290. Airlines choose the seating layout they want.

After the 787, already bearing ANA’s livery, arrives in Tokyo next month, the airline will use its first commercial flight for a special charter from Tokyo to Hong Kong. “We plan to use the 787 to expand our business, particularly our international routes,” says ANA senior vice president Mitsuo Morimoto. “We plan to increase our revenue from international route significantly and the 787 will play an instrumental role in this,” he adds, noting flights to Europe or the US are possibles for 787s.

“We are rolling out the first delivery airplane, the first 787,” enthused Scott Fancher, 787 project manager and Boeing vice president. “That’s an amazing thing for those who have worked on the program five, six, seven years, here at Boeing and our partners around the world.”

Boeing says they must increase the tempo of production from two a month to ten, if they are to meet customer demand. “It’s an extraordinary challenge, no one has ever built a wide body aircraft at the rate of 10 per month before,” claims Flight International writer John Ostrower.



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September 4, 2010

Cargo plane crashes in Dubai, two dead

Cargo plane crashes in Dubai, two dead – Wikinews, the free news source

Cargo plane crashes in Dubai, two dead

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Aviation

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The crash site of UPS Airlines Flight 6. Both of the two crew were killed in the accident.
Image: Liallena.

According to Wakalat Anba’a al-Emarat, the official news agency of the United Arab Emirates, a Boeing 747-400 cargo plane belonging to the United States courier UPS Airlines, crashed after take-off in Dubai on Friday. Two crew members were on board at the time of the crash, both of whom were killed. There were no reports of any other deaths or injuries on the ground.

The aircraft was en route to Cologne Bonn Airport in Cologne, Germany when it crashed. According to witnesses, at around 7.45 p.m. local time, it caught fire and attempted to return to the airport, then crashed into the ground near Dubai Silicon Oasis. It had just taken off from Dubai International Airport a few minutes beforehand. The crash site is inside the perimeter fence of Emirati air base, located near a busy highway intersection.

A contributing witness on the Professional Pilots Rumour Network, an aviation discussion board, wrote: “Just five minutes ago. I heard and saw an aircraft, possibly an airliner going down in Dubai near Silicon Oasis. It has just over-flown my house and [there was] a big fireball.” Another contributor suggested that the aircraft was attempting to land on Runway 30L, when it declared an emergency and subsequently veered off course. The aircraft then allegedly disappeared from radar, descending through 500ft doing 250 knots. Another contributor reported that “the wreckage trail is fairly long … so it looks like it is possible they still had control & tried to force land it.”

UPS international operations manager Bob Lekites released a statement describing the incident as “very unfortunate” and that UPS “will do everything to find the cause.” An investigation into the cause of the incident has been launched by UAE authorities, and Boeing has announced it intends to “send a team to provide technical support to the investigation upon invitation from the authorities.” The National Transportation Safety Board of the United States also released a press statement, stating that it “will dispatch an aviation investigator to assist the government of United Arab Emirates in its investigation of the crash”. The team will, according to the statement “include NTSB specialists in the areas of human performance, fire, operations, and systems.”



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February 13, 2010

Airborne laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

Airborne laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Science and technology
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The ALTB in flight.
Image: Missile Defense Agency.

An infrared video of the Airborne Laser Testbed (right) disabling a threat-representative short-range ballistic missile (left) during the initial boost phase.
Image: Missile Defense Agency.

The United States Missile Defense Agency have announced that their airborne laser system has successfully shot down a ballistic missile for the first time. In a test on Thursday the “Airborne Laser Testbed” (ALTB), a modified Boeing 747-400F, detected a boosting short-range missile and tracked it using a low-energy laser. A second low-energy laser was used to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance, before the aircraft’s High Energy Laser was used to destroy the target.

The missile was liquid-fuelled and said to be “threat-representative”, possibly similar to a Scud. It was launched from sea, and shot down by the ALTB within two minutes. In a second test less than an hour later, a solid-fuel missile launched from a ground location was also successfully hit by the High Energy Laser, but deliberately not destroyed. A similar missile was destroyed on February 3.

In a press release announcing the successful tests the Missile Defense Agency said: “The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers, and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies.”

The ALTB is described as a “pathfinder” for the use of directed energy in missile defense. It is designed to operate at high altitudes above the clouds, and to detect and destroy ballistic missiles soon after launch whilst they are still in their boosting phase. The aircraft is provided by Boeing, the main laser by Northrop Grumman, and the control systems by Lockheed Martin.

“Through its hard work and technical ingenuity, the government-industry team has produced a breakthrough with incredible potential,” stated Greg Hyslop, vice president of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. He said that the experiment had “made history”.

The US has been working on the program since 1996, and has faced numerous problems in that time. The megawatt-class High Energy Laser is known as the chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and consists of six modules, each as large as an SUV. The sheer weight of chemicals needed was almost too much for the 747 jet. The laser also had problems with accuracy due to atmospheric conditions.

February’s tests were originally scheduled to be carried out in 2002. The amount spent getting the project to this stage has also risen from a planned US$1 billion to $7.3 billion. Last year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates cut the program back to a single jet for research, suggesting it would not see actual deployment.

“The reality is that you would need a laser something like 20 to 30 times more powerful than the chemical laser in the plane right now to be able to get any distance from the launch site to fire,” Gates told Congress. “So, right now the [jet] would have to orbit inside the borders of Iran in order to be able to try and use its laser to shoot down that missile in the boost phase.”

Gates also raised concerns at the large number of planes that would be required, and the ensuing cost. However, he said that directed energy weapons still had potential for missile defense.



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December 16, 2009

Boeing 787 \”Dreamliner\” makes maiden flight

Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” makes maiden flight

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

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The Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” at its unveiling in July 2007
Image: Yasuhiko Obara.

Boeing’s newest commercial aircraft, the 787 “Dreamliner”, made its first test flight Tuesday in Everett, Washington at 18:00 UTC. Boeing claims that the new 290+ seat wide-body, twin engine jetliner is more fuel efficient than previous Boeing models.

The release of the “Dreamliner” is almost two and a half years behind schedule. The project has been plagued by various issues, including strike action, parts shortages and design problems. The aircraft is thought to have attracted 840 orders to date, though some have been cancelled due to the delays, making the 787 worth in the region of US$140bn (€96bn, £86bn) for Boeing.

An aerospace analyst, Richard Aboulafia, said that “[The test flight] will provide a badly needed perception that the program is on some kind of schedule again, but it’s still a long way from the ultimate result.” Boeing’s European rival, Airbus, is preparing to release a similar aircraft, the A350, in 2013.



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November 20, 2009

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

UK lawyer comments on court case against Boeing over London jet crash

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Friday, November 20, 2009

The scene of the crash
Image: Marc-Antony Payne.

On Thursday, ten of those on board British Airways Flight 38 launched a case against Boeing over the accident before a court in Illinois. They are suing over an alleged flawed design that allowed an ice buildup to bring the 777 jet down at London’s Heathrow Airport. Scottish advocate Peter Macdonald spoke to Wikinews, commenting on the case and explaining the surrounding legislation. He has experience of litigating aviation accidents.

Although investigations are ongoing, the United Kingdom’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) has issued interim reports indicating ice buildup on an engine component. As the jet passed over Siberia on its journey from Beijing, China it encountered significantly reduced temperatures. The AAIB has determined that the fuel was at a temperature below 0°C for an unusually long duration. This is believed to have caused water in the fuel — which met all relevant international standards — to have frozen into crystals.

A build-up of ice developed on a component called the fuel/oil heat exchanger. This restricted the flow of fuel to the engine, resulting in an “uncommanded engine rollback” — a loss of power — on approach for landing. Investigators initially struggled to produce enough ice under test conditions but later discovered that at high concentration, fuel can form ice at very low temperatures in enough quantity to seriously restrict fuel flow. This does not occur when fuel demand is lower, as the hot oil then becomes sufficient to entirely melt the ice. It was only when extra fuel was pumped in from the tanks for the landing that the crystals became a problem. The fuel/oil heat exchanger is a dual purpose part designed to simultaneously melt fuel ice and cool down engine oil by passing oil pipes through the fuel flow.

Cquote1.svg If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not Cquote2.svg

—Scots lawyer Peter Macdonald

The crew of the aircraft were praised for their handling of the emergency, avoiding the airport’s perimeter fence and nearby houses to crash land short of the runway. None of the 136 passengers and 16 crew were killed but some of those suffered serious injuries, including broken bones and facial injuries. Some were left unable to fly and there were cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The crash was triggered by highly unusual circumstances; the first AAIB report noted that cold fuel behaving in this manner was an “apparently hitherto unknown phenomenon.” As part of the investigation, data of 141,000 flights of 777s equipped with the engine model involved — the Rolls-Royce Trent 800 — was reviewed without finding any relevant circumstance similar to the accident flight, although there was later a similar incident in the United States in which the aircraft continued safely after repowering one engine; the second did not lose power.

Given the circumstances surrounding the case, Wikinews asked Peter Macdonald if the plaintiffs intended to prove that Boeing knew or should have known the Rolls-Royce powerplant was dangerously defective by design. “I rather suspect that there may be product liability legislation in place in whichever US jurisdiction is being used,” Macdonald explained. “Such statutes normally do not require proof of fault, nor do they require proof of knowledge. All that you have to show is that there was a defect in the product which caused the losses concerned… If I am correct that it is a product liability suit, then the fact that this is the first such accident matters not.”

Cquote1.svg [Rolls-Royce] would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 Cquote2.svg

—Peter Macdonald

Macdonald went on to discuss the international legislation and how it interacts to the plaintiffs and the three companies involved — Boeing, British Airways and Rolls-Royce. Only Boeing is currently named in an action over the case. “There are several reasons why the plaintiffs will wish to sue Boeing in the States,” he said. “Were the plaintiffs to seek redress in a court in the United Kingdom, it is unlikely that the relevant part of Boeing would be subject to jurisdiction here.” He also pointed out that “US damages are generally higher than English damages.”

“As to whether Boeing should settle, that all depends upon the basis of the action. If it is a fault [negligence] based action, they will be able to defend it. If fault is not needed, that is why they would want the action dismissed, forcing litigation in the UK.” In the UK, a product liability suit “would ordinarily be directed against the importers, i.e. British Airways… It would be a simple matter to sue BA here [the UK] for the physical injuries and their financial consequences,” said Macdonald. “That leaves RR [Rolls-Royce]. I assume that the engine was made in the UK. They would be liable for a defect in terms of the Consumer Protection Act 1987, Part I.” This piece of UK-wide legislation states that “where any damage is caused wholly or partly by a defect in a product [the manufacturer] shall be liable for the damage.” Damage includes injuries.

This picture from the investigation demonstrates the effects of ice buildup on the part in question

US courts decide international jurisdictional issues under the Jones Act, passed as a result of Bhopal litigation, “which makes it much more difficult for a foreigner to sue in the US if the accident did not happen there… My restricted understanding of that is that it is likely that it would be difficult to remove an action from a US court where the aircraft was made in the US.” He further pointed out that the court would require there to be an alternative court with jurisdiction over the issue. “It may well be that the relevant part of the Boeing group is not subject to the jurisdiction of the English courts… I have seen cases where it was made a condition of the grant of an order under the Jones Act that the defendants would submit to the jurisdiction of a court in Scotland and that they would not take a plea of time bar in the even that an action was raised within three months of the court order.”

He then addressed the international law with regards to what could be claimed for against air carriers such as BA. In a previous case against the same airline, Abnett v British Airways, the House of Lords ruled in 1997 “that the only remedy for an injured passenger on an international flight is to sue under the Warsaw Convention, Article 17, incorporated into our law by the Carriage by Air Act, 1961.” The Warsaw Convention governs liability for international commercial airlines. At the time, the House of Lords was the highest court of appeal in the UK, although it was recently replaced by the Supreme Court. The Abnett case referred to British Airways Flight 149, in which Iraq captured the aircraft and occupants when it landed in Kuwait hours after Iraq invaded in 1990. Peter Macdonald represented Abnett in this case.

The Convention “provides a remedy for “bodily injury”. Interestingly, the term only appeared in the final draft of the Warsaw Convention. There is no mention of the term in the minutes of the many sessions which lead up to the final draft. It was produced overnight and signed later that day.” This term creates difficulties in claiming for mental problems such as the fear of flying or PTSD, although Macdonald points out that “there is a large amount of medical literature which details physical and chemical changes in the brains of people who are suffering from PTSD.”

In King v Bristow Helicopters, heard before the House of Lords in 2002 “held that PTSD was not a “bodily injury”, but expressly left the door open for someone to try to prove that what is known as PTSD is the manifestation of physical changes in the brain which have been brought about by the trauma. Such a litigation is pending in Scotland.” Macdonald is acting in this case.

Actions against Boeing are not bound in this way, as the Warsaw Convention only applies to airlines, making the States an attractive place to sue due to the issues with demonstrating jurisdiction against the relevant part of the Boeing group in the UK. Another reason why the plaintiffs would prefer to sue in America is that in the UK “there would be liability [for BA], and that would be subject to a damages cap. An action in the US [against any defendant] would probably have the same cap, but is likely to award damages more generously in the event that the cap is not reached.”



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UK tims of London jetliner jet_craue Boeings w>

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Friday, November 20, 2009

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