Questions and Answers
Who is legally liable for damages in a general aviation
Potentially liable parties vary depending on the cause of the
accident. The owner and operator of the aircraft certainly may
be liable. Manufacturers or maintenance suppliers may be liable
in certain circumstances. In one recent case, a company that
leased a plane to an inexperienced pilot was found to be liable.
An experienced aviation attorney is essential in identifying all
possible claims and defendants.
What is the NTSB?
The National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") is an
independent federal agency charged with investigating every
civil aviation accident in the United States. Its jurisdiction
also includes trains and other vehicle accidents as well. The
NTSB also issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing
future accidents. The NTSB maintains the government's database
on civil aviation accidents and conducts special studies of
transportation safety issues of national significance. The NTSB
also provides investigators to serve as U.S. representatives in
aviation accidents overseas involving U.S. - registered
aircraft, aircraft or major components of U.S. manufacturers or
where requested by foreign governments.
What is the FAA?
The Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") is the element of
the U.S. government with primary responsibility for the safety
of civil aviation. It is separate from, and independent of, the
What role does the FBI play in the
investigation of an aviation accident?
The FBI's role is to investigate the possibility of sabotage or
some other criminal act that may have contributed to an
accident. Though the FBI is consulted in many aviation
disasters, they take over jurisdiction only in rare cases where
criminal acts form the reason for the accident.
What agencies are involved in the investigation
of aviation accidents?
In addition to the NTSB, FAA and FBI, accident investigation may
involve foreign or local authorities or the Departments of
Justice, State and/or Defense. Agencies such as the American Red
Cross, Department of Health and Human Services and Federal
Emergency Management Agency may also be involved in providing
services to victims and their families. Depending on the
circumstances of any given crash, other agencies may also be
What insurance is the owner of a general
aviation aircraft required to have?
The typical liability insurance policy will provide $100,000 of
coverage per passenger/injury.
What is a black box?
The term "Black Box" actually refers to two "black boxes" - the
flight data and cockpit voice recorders. These instruments
record a wide variety of information, such as speed and altitude
or the voice communication within the cockpit. The black boxes
are also equipped with beacons that aid rescuers in locating
Can the government be held responsible for an
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the United States has been
sued for the negligence of an air traffic controller that led to
an aviation disaster.
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