Alleges ATC Error, Negligence
widows of three Indiana men killed in an October 2004 crash in
Missouri have sued the federal government. Three separate and
individual suits charge controllers directed the aircraft into a
dangerous thunderstorm causing the crash.
All suits challenge a government investigation claiming pilot
William M. Shearer lost control of the Beechcraft A36. As Aero-News reported,
Shearer -- along with passengers Dr. Ronald D. Kracke and Armand H.
McClintock -- perished during the flight from South Dakota to
Air traffic controllers in Minneapolis vectored Shearer south of
his original flight path to avoid a line of storms. Reportedly, the
A36 turned east at 8:10 pm, and was handed off to a new controller
in Kansas City, who erred by not giving any more weather guidance.
The lawsuits claim by 8:36 pm, the plane disappeared off radar as
it flew into a thunderstorm, according to the Indianapolis
A commercial pilot witness told the NTSB, "Aircraft spun out of
clouds, began recovery, hit the ground, [and] burst of flame
immediately." The NTSB stated in its probable report, "The pilot
not maintaining airplane control during cruise flight. Factors
present were night and thunderstorm conditions."
"The question is why," said Bruce Kehoe, an attorney
representing Kimberly Fox, McClintock's wife. "Is it
weather-related? And would timely and accurate weather information
from air traffic controllers have made a difference? Our contention
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory and all three plaintiffs
declined comment to the Indianapolis Star.
US government attorneys blamed the pilot's "negligent conduct"
and said air traffic controllers "exercised due care and diligence
at all times." Joseph Bosco, a Chicago attorney representing
Kracke's Susan, said Shearer followed all instructions and
suggestions given by controllers.
Presiding Judge David F. Hamilton must decide if controllers are
responsible when they provide weather guidance to pilots who don't
have on-board radar. Shearer did not.
"We're going to help every pilot out there as much as we can,"
said Howard Blankenship, the Central Region vice president for the
National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He said ATCs primary
role, however, is to keep aircraft from colliding.
The suits do not specify the amount of damages being sought, but
a statement filed with the court in January indicates Susan Kracke
is asking for $6 million.