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Tue, Jan 15, 2008

University Of Michigan Sued By Charter Operator Over Contract Termination

School Backed Out One Month After June 2007 Accident

The Belleville, MI-based charter operator of a Cessna Citation Bravo that crashed in Lake Michigan last June recently sued the University of Michigan for over $1 million, saying the college terminated its contract after the accident without due cause.

As ANN reported, the Citation 550 ditched about five minutes after takeoff from Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport. The Lifeguard flight was chartered by U-M, and had two university doctors and two perfusionists onboard. The plane was transporting the medical personnel and human organs to Willow Run Airport in Detroit, where the doctors were to perform a double-lung transplant.

All onboard, including the aircraft's two-man flight crew, were lost in the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board has not yet released its probable cause report on the accident; ATC transcripts indicate the pilots reported runaway trim, and were trying to fix the problem, shortly before the Citation (accident aircraft shown below) crashed.

Just over one month after the accident, U-M cancelled its contract with Marlin Air to provide fixed-wing medical transport services for the school's Survival Flight program, over two years before it was due to expire.

Scott Erskine, attorney for the charter operator, asserts the university backed out without due cause. He notes the probable cause of the accident hasn't been determined by the NTSB or FAA... and Marlin isn't accused of any wrongdoing.

"This lawsuit truly pits David v. Goliath," Erskine told The Ann Arbor News.

In a statement released Monday, the University of Michigan said it cancelled the contract because "Marlin Air did not have the ability to provide the services required by our institution. We continued our services with other fixed wing carriers. We are now in the process of contracting with new providers to support our critical patient care needs."

Erskine replies the university cancelled the contract July 13, a day after Marlin told U-M it would have two new pilots on the transplant team by July 20.

"Marlin Air, Inc., a small, local company, faithfully performed airplane maintenance and pilot training for the university's Survival Flight program for well over a decade," he said. "Despite an impeccable track record, the university terminated the contract with Marlin Air shortly after the crash, citing only the 'tragic circumstances that resulted in the crash' as the reason for termination."

FMI: Read The NTSB Prelim, www.umich.edu, www.marlinair.com

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