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| Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Statistics point to a clear safety concern for people who operate kit-built airplanes. These types of planes accounted for 18 percent of non-commercial plane crashes in 2008, even though they logged less than five percent of flight time, according to the Associated Press. The accident rate for a kit plane, including amateur-built helicopters, is more than seven times higher than other noncommercial aircrafts.

These airplane accidents can have tragic results. In 2008, eighty-two people died in airplane accidents involving kit planes, according the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s safety foundation. A recent example was the airplane accident where a beach jogger in Hilton Head, South Carolina (SC) was killed by a single-engine kit-built plane.

A big problem with kit-built planes is that they are usually constructed by amateur pilots, so each plane is different and can react differently to conditions in the air. As a licensed pilot, I fully appreciate the challenges of operating a small plane and am concerned that those challenges are exacerbated by a plane that is built by someone who is not mechanically savvy or licensed to build such a device.

The Federal Aviation Administration released a safety advisory expressing concern about the design characteristics of kit planes which allow them to fly much faster than most small airplanes and these characteristics expose pilots to additional risk during slow-speed operations while close to the ground and have a limited amount of time to recover from an unintentional stall.

Action needs to be taken to correct these issues. Eighty-two people losing their lives in kit-built airplane accidents is far too high, especially considering these accidents could be prevented with better regulations and standardization in the kit plane industry. I understand the desire to take to the skies, but it needs to be done in a safe manner so you, and everyone else around you, is not at risk of suffering a serious injury or a loss of life.

About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.


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