FAA To Pay $1.4 Million To Student Pilot’s Widow


The widow of an 80-year-old student pilot who was killed in March 2000 when two aircraft collided on a runway in Florida has accepted an offer of $1.4 million to settle with the FAA. Shirley Heffner, 77, had filed a $30 million suit against the agency after the NTSB blamed controllers’ actions for the crash. A Cessna 152 and a 172 collided at Sarasota Brandenton International Airport, and all four aboard the two aircraft were killed in a fiery wreck. “I just couldn’t take any more bickering with the government,” Heffner told the Associated Press. “They wear you down.” Heffner has medical problems requiring round-the-clock care and said she needs the money now. The FAA has not accepted the NTSB conclusion that it was at fault, according to the AP report. According to the NTSB final report, the probable cause of the accident was “the failure of the supervisor/ground controller and the local controller to provide effective separation between the accident airplanes on the runway, resulting in a collision during takeoff.” The 152 was cleared to take off from the approach end of Runway 14, and the 172 was cleared to taxi onto the runway, but it was holding at an intersection, not behind the 152 as the controller apparently believed. Contributing to the accident, the NTSB said, was the failure of the two pilots aboard the 172 to ensure that the runway was clear, and the lack of ATC procedures that would have prevented the accident.