Flutterby™! : 58 years in salt water not good enough

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58 years in salt water not good enough

2009-01-21 15:02:34.987048+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

Philip Greenspun points out that Northrop Grumman is being sued for designing an airplane that lasted 58 years in a salty marine environment, getting pounded with waves at 80 knots.

Jim Confalone, Chalk's owner, had long disputed the safety board's findings, saying the crash had nothing to do with the company's maintenance program, and that the cracks were caused by the plane's manufacturer.

Couple stuff like this with the issues in liability law where an entity found partially liable can still end up footing the whole settlement, and it's a wonder anyone builds airplanes.

[ related topics: Nature and environment Aviation Law Current Events ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 16:18:01.542646+00 by: petronius

Not many people build small planes anymore.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 16:24:29.255318+00 by: ebradway

Interesting reality check. I was quite surprised when I learned how long airplanes are kept in service. But the basic idea is that, in addition to engineering a safe plane that can be constructed well, the manufacturer also structures a maintenance program that can keep it in service indefinitely. It's an attitude born of the natural of flying - any failure is essentially catastrophic.

It seems that AIG's argument is that Grumman didn't properly design the plane and maintenance program. That there were key rivets that could not be inspected and/or replaced.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 16:35:29.975934+00 by: JT

I wanted to buy an old Piper Super Cub long ago as a hobby airplane. I wanted to learn to fly and renting airplanes was very expensive. I found that I could find a plane very cheap, but the parts were super expensive for even the most mundane seeming object. I looked into old airplane graveyards and found listings for about 4 of them which had piper parts. On contacting them, I found that they were no longer able to sell parts.

It seemed there was a case where someone bought an altimeter for a Cessna 152, used from a junkyard, and even signed papers stating that he understood it was a used part, shouldn't be used for critical operations such as IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and was given with no warranty.

A few years later, he flies into the side of a mountain while zipping through a cloud during VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Although there was no proof that the altimeter was at fault and the guy had signed an agreement, and, and ,and... the lawsuit still succeeded and the owner of this parts yard was sued out of existence. Law suits started popping up and the FAA disallowed selling parts from these mom and pop places with literally hundreds of airplanes sitting dormant in their fields.

Only somewhat related to this topic, but I thought it was interesting. I also didn't buy an airplane simply for the cost involved.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 16:47:53.241505+00 by: petronius

The recent Hudson river crash reminded me of a similar case that happened in the late 60s at SFO, where a DC-8 from JAL landed 1/2 a mile short of the runway, in San Francisco Bay. Nobody was hurt. The interesting thing was that the plane was fished out, refurbished, and sold to somebody else. As late as 2001 the DC-8 was still in service as a cargo carrrier for DHL. With proper upkeep, they can last forever.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 16:57:43.09473+00 by: ebradway

I expect if I ever own a plane, I'll build it myself.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 19:00:21.847255+00 by: petronius

If you build your own plane, who will you sue?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-21 19:05:10.199456+00 by: Dan Lyke

JT, a comment in Philip Greenspun's look at how Precision Airmotive decided to stop making carburetors looks at how product liability has gone from "you did something wrong, injury occurred, you need to pay" to "something went wrong, someone's gotta pay, you have some cash".