Posted by: Jeff Rhodes | April 28, 2011

Why Are Airplanes and Insurance So Expensive?

From today…

Cory Lidle NY Cirrus Crash Trial Begins

Lawyers put forth opening arguments Wednesday in a $50 million wrongful death suit against Cirrus Design over the October 2006 crash that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his instructor Tyler Stanger. The two men were flying a Cirrus SR20 north along what was then the New York East River Class B exclusion area on the east side of Manhattan. The aircraft initiated a turn to the west to reverse course, drifted over Manhattan, descended, and impacted the face of a 520-foot apartment building at 333 feet above the ground. Lawyers arguing on behalf of Lidle’s widow, who brought the suit, said that the aircraft’s control system failed to provide adequate control throughout the maneuver. “If you can’t control the airplane, you can’t be at fault,” said prosecuting attorney Todd Macaluso. Lawyers for Cirrus offered a different point of view, as has the NTSB. And a 2007 Cirrus mandatory Service Bulletin, and other issues, may complicate the court case.

In 2007, Cirrus offered a mandatory service bulletin and the FAA proposed an AD for certain SR20 and SR22 airplanes. At issue was the rudder-aileron interconnect system. The company required inspections and corrective action to prevent the possibility of control jamming, which had been found on certain aircraft. The original suit stated that “Cirrus airplanes have a history of aileron failures,” that there have been “other accidents involving flight control failures” and that mis-rigging on some aircraft had caused “flight control problems.” The NTSB did not indicate those potential problems as a factor in the Lidle accident. In its final report, the Board stated that there were no system, structural or engine malfunctions found. It found that the two men initiated a turn too close to buildings, that the turn was executed at an insufficient rate, and that neither Cirrus nor the airplane caused the crash. According to the NTSB, the cause of the accident was “the pilots’ inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship in the performance of a 180º turn maneuver inside of a limited turning space.” It found the pilot in command had displayed “inadequate” in-flight planning and decision making, inadequate judgment, and inadequate aircraft handling.

My guess is that Cirrus Design is not responsible for this loss – a fact that any educated airman already knows.  These two pilots messed up and they flew the airplane into a building.   But it will cost Cirrus (and their insurer) millions of dollars in court costs, and may even include a settlement to the family members bringing the suit. In today’s legal environment, a corporate entity doesn’t stand a chance in front of a jury against a grieving widow and her fatherless children.  Even if they bear no responsibility for the accident – Cirrus will most likely have to settle to make it go away.

People ask me all the time why insurance is so **** expensive.  And they lament that a single engine airplanes utilizing 1940’s engine technology costs 3/4 of a million dollars.  Well – this is why, folks.


  1. […] up fuel costs, there is a more insidious player driving up our insurance rates. Various lawsuits, like this one, which sees a widow suing Cirrus for $50 million because her husband flew into a building, prompt […]

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