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Georgia man killed in home-built aircraft crash in Alabama

A Fayetteville, Georgia, a man was killed after the experimental, home-built plane he was piloting crashed in Anniston, Alabama. According to the FAA Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) report, the aircraft “crashed in the mountain under unknown circumstances” in Weaver, Alabama. The pilot, Harvell Walker Jr., was the only person aboard.

Experimental, Amateur Built

Walker was flying Van’s Aircraft model RV-8, an experimental aircraft made from a kit. Van’s Aircraft sells a line of kits ranging from the single-seat RV-3 to the four-seat RV-10. The planes have become popular in the U.S. because of their speed, agility, and fuel efficiency. They are also easy to build and to fly.

The planes fall under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Experimental-Amateur Built category. The FAA has certified more than 30,000 aircraft under this category since its creation in the 1950s.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, an exclusive service of the Flight Safety Foundation, there have been 77 crashes with 55 fatalities involving Van’s RV-7 model Aircraft since December 2003, and 34 accidents with 19 fatalities involving Van’s RV-10 models since 2007.

Not the First Crash

In 2015, Van’s Aircraft was hit with a lawsuit over the death of a 4-year-old girl and injuries to her mother. In May 2014, an RV-10 plane built by the girl’s step-grandfather crashed. The family asked for $35 million in damages.

An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined the cause of the crash to be “a total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation because of a blocked fuel line that resulted from the pilot’s improper maintenance practices and the pilot’s subsequent failure to maintain adequate airspeed while attempting a forced landing, which led to the airplane exceeding its critical angle-of-attack and experiencing an aerodynamic stall.”

The lawsuit claimed that Van’s Aircraft took advantage of an FAA loophole for experimental planes to include its home-built models and that “the FAA doesn’t require the same rigorous testing for homebuilt airplanes as it does for professionally built ones.”

Aviation Lawyers

Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident claims. He has represented people seriously injured or killed in both military and civilian crashes, and their families. Currently, Mike represents the families those killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving Boeing’s 737 Max 8 aircraft.

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