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Celestial v. Associated Air Center
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While the fate of Malaysia Air Flight 17 is not in dispute, how much compensation families of victims may receive could be a subject of debate for months or even years to come. The flight was shot down over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. Why it was shot down and by whom remain unconfirmed. Whether or not it was mistaken for a military transport or it was shot down for other reasons may never be determined since the investigation has been hampered by fighting at the crash site. But regardless of the reasons why the plane was felled and who exactly fired the rocket that caused the tragedy, the airline may still be liable for the catastrophe that cost the lives of nearly 300 people.
According to a recent Associated Press story published by ABC News, government "officials in the Netherlands, where the majority of Flight 17 victims lived, say that Malaysia Airlines has been making $50,000 payments to the families without admitting any wrongdoing in the crash. Such payments may create goodwill, lawyers say, but they are not likely to discourage some families from seeking more than the amount promised under an international treaty — about $174,000."
For commercial aviation disasters, international agreements typically allow for compensation to crash victims under a no-fault system: if a crash or other tragedy occurs, airlines are obligated to pay a standard amount to families of the survivors even if an investigation determines that the airline is not at-fault. The airline, however, can still be sued for additional compensation if they have been deemed negligent. Was Malaysia Airlines negligent in their duties regarding Flight 17? Did they know that the airspace was extremely dangerous? As the investigation continues, the airline may prove to be the only party capable of providing compensation. How that compensation is determined will be the subject of rigorous legal analysis for the foreseeable future.
25 years ago this summer, a horrific commercial airline disaster occurred in Sioux City, Iowa. The United Airlines Flight 232 crash resulted in the death of 112 people as it flew from Denver to Chicago. When a rear engine blew up en route, the crew attempted to safely land the plane in Iowa. They put the plane down on the runway, but damage to the plane made complete control impossible. Upon landing on the tarmac, it burst into flames and caromed into a field. Though 112 people were killed, 184 more survived as a result of the crew and pilot's heroic effort and appropriate response to the emergency.
A new book by Laurence Gonzales details the crash and explains that a defective part in the rear engine led to the catastrophe. In Flight 232: A Story Of Disaster And Survival, Gonzales offers insight into why the plane crashed and how it was possible that anyone survived the calamity. The author interviews survivors and provides a detailed account of what happened that day.
The cause of the crash is well known: when the rear-mounted engine exploded due to a manufacturer defect in the fan disk, the resulting shrapnel damaged the hydraulic lines and made controlling the plane nearly impossible. The crew's response is regarded as a text-book example of successful Crew Resource Management (CRM) in the face of an emergency.
Though the cause of the crash has been thoroughly investigated and Gonzales offers some new information regarding the subsequent investigation and issues of liability related to the crash, his book does much more. He puts a human face on the tragedy and details the ongoing struggles that survivors of aviation crashes often confront over the long term.
Aviation authorities in Europe and the United States have suspended flights to and from Israel after a missile fell about a mile from the airport in Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion International. The Federal Aviation Administration instructed all commercial flights to avoid the Tel Aviv airport for at least another 24 hours after an initial warning issued on July 22. In a press release issued on July 23, the FAA cited safety concerns in the area as a reason for extending the 24 hour ban on US carriers going into and out of Ben-Gurion. The military unrest in the Gaza strip has claimed hundreds of lives and efforts at a lasting cease fire have been failures.
While the incidents may not be directly related, the downing of Malaysian Air MH17 and the banning of certain civilian flights into Israel is more than coincidental. Some airlines and aviation authorities seem to be taking no chances with civilian aircraft over military conflict zones after the Malaysia Airlines catastrophe. MH 17 had nearly 300 people on board when it was shot down over the politically unstable region of Ukraine in mid-July. Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces has been ongoing for several months.
Carriers who have canceled flights to Israel include Delta, US Air, and United. Air Canada has also canceled at least one flight to the region. Not long after the FAA issued the first order to suspend flights, many European carriers followed. These include Air France, Lufthansa and KLM. The European Aviation and Safety Agency, the equivalent of the FAA in Europe, also issued a warning for all European flights bound for Israel.
According to the Wall Street Journal the Ovda Airport in Southern Israel has been opened to large carriers' international flights. Ovda is typically used for charter flights rather than large commercial airlines but Israel has taken the step to alleviate the large airlines' concerns. Though flights may resume shortly to Ben-Gurion, there is reason to believe that the Malaysia Airlines disaster will have lasting consequences for flight paths over military hotspots.
More tragedy has stricken Malaysia airlines. In addition to the still missing Malaysian Flight 370 that disappeared in early March, another one of their aircraft has been lost. This flight, however, has left considerable wreckage and the fate of the passengers is certain. Initial reports indicate the plane was shot down over contested Ukrainian air space. The plane's wreckage is strewn across dozens of square miles. Even in ideal conditions, an investigation would be complicated but the political and military upheaval in the area will likely create an even higher degree of difficulty for those who seek the truth.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 had 298 people aboard when it suddenly exploded over the skies of the eastern Ukraine on Thursday, July 17. According to the New York Times and multiple media sources, American and Ukrainian officials are saying that the plane was shot out of the sky by an anti-aircraft missile. Who launched the missile is still uncertain. Ukrainian officials have accused pro-Russian separatists of launching the missile. Military conflict has plagued the region for several months as the independent Ukrainian government tries to maintain its borders and quell an uprising of pro-Russian separatists.
Obviously anytime there is loss of life on board an aircraft, the situation is tragic. However, the sense of tragedy may be heightened in this case. A mass-casualty incident occurring in such a short period of time involving the same airline is nearly unprecedented. Furthermore, the political situation in the region may make the truth incredibly elusive.
Victims of this latest tragedy hail from at least nine countries. American and European carriers have re-routed their planes to avoid the dangerous airspace and international authorities have deemed the area a no-fly zone for civilian aircraft. People who lost loved ones are probably wondering why commercial airliners were not re-routed before such a tragedy occurred.
CBS News reports that General Motors is recalling more than 3 million more cars for possible ignition switch problems. Over the last several months the automaker has recalled nearly 20 million cars worldwide for a variety of safety issues. Now nearly six million GM automobile have been recalled in an effort to protect consumers from defective ignitions. If the keys in the ignition have pressure or weight applied to them or are jostled or shifted while the engine is on, the ignition switch may malfunction and cause the vehicle to shut down. Not only could this cause the power steering and other vital components to fail but it may also cause the airbags to fail when they would be most necessary. The ignition switch defect has been linked to at least 13 deaths in the United States.
On June 16, GM released a statement saying that the latest recall is in response to newly uncovered information related to key design. The latest recall is for seven models that were released between 2000 and 2014. Below is a list provided by GM on the cars that have most recently been recalled:
According to GM, once the cars are brought back to designated dealers, technicians will add an insert that will change the slot at the top of the key to a small hole. Until this fix is completed, the company suggests removing the key from a keychain and driving with only the weight of the key applied to the ignition.