A Fayetteville, Georgia, man was killed after the experimental home-built plane he was piloting went down 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.
Walker was flying a Van’s Aircraft model RV-8, an experimental aircraft made from a kit. The company sells a line of aircraft 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, fuel efficiency and ease to build and fly.
The planes fall under the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) regulatory category known as Experimental-Amateur Built. More than 30,000 aircraft have been certified under this category since it was established 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.
In 2015, Van’s Aircraft was hit with a lawsuit over the death of a 4-year-old girl and injuries to her mother sustained in May 2014 when an RV-10 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 that the crash was caused by “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 exploited 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.”
Mike Andrews, a lawyer in the firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability section, focuses much of his practice on aviation accident litigation. He has represented people seriously injured in aviation crashes, and the family of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. Currently, Mike represents family members of victims in the Ethiopian Airlines crash involving the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.