Gross Negligence

Families of 10 of the victims in the ExcelAire versus Gol 737 crash in Brazil are suing ExcelAire, US operator of the bizjet, and Honeywell, manufacturer of the bizjet's transponder, for gross negligence, alleging that a) the ExcelAire pilots were flying at the wrong altitude, and b) the transponder was not working.

Since failing to manufacture a device that cannot break (assuming that the transponder *did* break and wasn't turned off and it's not just Brazilian ATC covering their butts) is "gross negligence," may I suggest that the families take the approach of the guy who sued the motorcycle industry for knowingly making a "defective" product after he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident: sue Boeing and the rest of the aviation industry for making planes that can collide with other planes and the various aviation regulators for allowing same to be flown.

I'm only half kidding here. The FAA's "safety safety safety" mandate has had the opposite result: because no bureaucrat ever got fired for failing to approve something that could have saved lives, but bureaucrats can easily imagine getting fired for approving something that can be pointed to as being at fault in an accident, anything that does get approved needs to have a paper trail heavier than an A380 to make sure every bureaucrat's butt is covered. The result has been that the "state of the art" TCAS still relies on transponders and gives very limited information and lots of false alarms.

I feel for the families, but I hope at least the Honeywell suit gets laughed out of court. If it doesn't, owners of general aviation planes might not even be able to afford transponders any more, let alone TCAS. This whole fiasco seems to be driven far more by anti-Americanism and bureaucratic butt-covering than by any desire to find out what actually happened.

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