The family of veteran New Orleans reporter Nancy Parker has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) alleging the agency failed in its duty to keep an unsafe airplane out of the sky.
Ms. Parker, 53, was killed when the Aerotek Pitts S-2B stunt plane she was a passenger in crashed shortly after takeoff from New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport on Aug. 16, 2019. The flight was part of a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen WW II fighter pilots she was filming for Fox affiliate station WVUE-TV. The pilot of the airplane, Franklin J.P. Augustus, was also killed. The plane was to perform skywriting stunts during the flight.
Ms. Parker’s husband and three children filed the lawsuit against the FAA on Aug. 6 in federal court in New Orleans. They allege that the FAA was aware of the airplane’s “lengthy and well-known history of substandard maintenance, mechanical problems and scant flight time” when they cleared the flight for takeoff, according to ABC News.
The lawsuit also alleges that despite knowing of the airplane’s maintenance and operational problems, FAA officials failed to take appropriate measures “to ensure [the plane] was airworthy prior to clearing the aircraft for flight.”
The lawsuit further claims that the aircraft was manufactured in 1983 with a warning that its smoke skywriting system should be used only on solo flights. In 1992, a 14-gallon auxiliary fuel tank was installed under the passenger seat, the lawsuit states.
The airplane was delayed from taking off for several hours on the day of the flight due to “mechanical problems with the aircraft’s engine which negatively impacted engine performance and safety of flight,” the lawsuit alleges.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the plane crash. In its preliminary investigative report of the crash, the NTSB said that Mr. Augustus radioed air traffic controllers at Lakeview Airport requesting immediate clearance to return to the airport, but he did not say what was wrong. The plane then entered a sharp descent and collided with the ground in an open field a half-mile south of the airport, bursting into flames on impact.
“As a proximate result of the negligence of defendant, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover for the wrongful death of decedent, including but not limited their pain and suffering, loss of love and affection, companionship, grief and mental anguish, loss of society and consortium, loss of personal services, loss of support and funeral expenses,” the lawsuit states, according to WVUE. The family is seeking $23 million in damages from the FAA.
The family also filed a separate lawsuit last year against the owner of the airplane, Drug Fighters Enterprises, and the manufacturer of the aircraft’s engine, Lycoming Engines. That lawsuit alleges the owner failed to maintain the engine in proper working condition and allowed it to fly despite knowing about its mechanical problems. It also claims that Lycoming made an engine that as “unreasonably dangerous in design.”
Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation. Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes similar to the one described in this story, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes. He currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.