...As More Suits Pending

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Lawyers for the family of a 20-year-old pilot who died in a California accident in May 2004 also are preparing to file a wrongful-death suit against the FAA, according to CDAPress.com. Two pilots in a Piper Seminole were killed when they hit a mountain while flying IFR near Julian, Calif. The accident aircraft was the fourth of five Seminoles with similar call signs that were flying the same route together, and when a controller authorized one aircraft to descend, the wrong aircraft acknowledged the clearance. The NTSB said in December 2004 that the probable cause for the accident was that the controller issued the descent clearance using a partial call sign and failed to detect that the clearance was read back by the wrong pilot. The pilots also failed to question the clearance to an altitude below the published Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA), the NTSB said. A contributing factor was that two controllers -- at the Center and the TRACON -- failed to properly respond to aural and visual minimum-altitude alerts from their equipment. "Aircraft are routinely descended below MEA by air traffic controllers without question by anyone," Timothy E. Miller, lawyer for the family, told CDAPress. "Pilots with approximately 200 hours of experience are taught to write down, read back and follow clearances exactly and to do so with minimum use of the radio."

Meanwhile, the family of the pilot in another Jacksonville-area crash sued the FAA for $25 million last month, saying controllers gave the pilot "bad information" just before his Swearingen turboprop crashed in dense fog last November. The NTSB has posted a preliminary report, but has not yet published a probable cause for that crash.