The family of a U.S. senator’s son killed in a 2013 plane crash has filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against the plane’s manufacturers.
The suit was filed Tuesday in Tulsa County District Court on behalf of Perry Dyson Inhofe II, 51, a licensed pilot, flight instructor and Tulsa physician who died when his Mitsubishi MU-2 twin-engine plane crashed Nov. 10, 2013, near Owasso. Inhofe was the son of U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.
A National Transportation Safety Board report on the crash claims Inhofe “did not appropriately manage” the aircraft, having to fly on just one engine before it went down. A probable cause report said Inhofe reported a “control problem” and “left engine shutdown” moments before the crash and that the plane should have been flyable in a one-engine-inoperative condition, as weather did not affect its performance.
But in documents that name Honeywell International Inc., Standard Aero, Standard Aero (Alliance) Inc. and Intercontinenal Jet Service as defendants, the Inhofe family claims the crash was due to the negligence of aircraft manufacturers that allegedly failed to provide proper maintenance on the aircraft’s engine and its parts.
“… This accident has devastated the Inhofe family, and we intend to find accountability from those responsible,” William Angelley, a Dallas aviation attorney representing Inhofe’s family, said in a statement.
“The NTSB missed this one. The cause of the left engine failure is clear, and my investigators found it within thirty minutes. Plus, it’s right there in the NTSB’s own data. If they didn’t see evidence of the malfunction, they either weren’t looking or didn’t know what they were doing.”
The NTSB often relies on representatives from the various manufacturers to assist in complex investigations, the attorney said.
And, that can be a real problem,” Angelley said. “NTSB investigators are not always familiar with the intricacies of large aircraft engines, and that certainly creates the potential for them to be misled or misdirected by manufacturers looking to avoid liability.”
Angelley, whose lawsuit asks for at least $75,000 in damages, also takes issue with the NTSB’s criticism of Inhofe’s handling of the left engine emergency.
“The probable cause report states that the airplane should have been flyable on that one engine, but that is absolute nonsense,” he said.
Angelley said that the left engine failed after the plane’s gear and flaps had already been lowered.
“That set up an impossible situation for Dr. Inhofe,” the attorney said. “Virtually no one could have recovered from that. There was simply too much drag and not enough power.”
Angelley also pointed out that there is no procedure in the MU-2 manual for responding to an engine failure when the landing gear and flaps are already down.
“The lawsuit we filed for Nancy and her children really has one central purpose,” Angelley said. “They need to be taken care of by those that caused this tragedy. The family has lost a father, a husband, a friend and a provider and they are facing the same challenges anyone else would in that situation.”
According to a recent story by USA Today, the NTSB typically assigns more people to investigations of crashes that kill prominent and politically connected people and celebrities. At least seven NTSB investigators, three Federal Aviation Administration inspectors and four manufacturing companies tested Inhofe’s airplane’s engines, propellers, valves and switches, as well as testing other factors, USA Today reported.
The normal probe of a fatal private-airplane crash involves four to five people, according to a USA Today review of 600 NTSB investigations since early 2011. An NTSB official told the national publication that a larger initial team is dispatched to a high-profile crash to accelerate the investigation and get information to the public faster.
According to USA Today, the NTSB used the Perry Inhofe crash to advocate for safety upgrades in the aircraft model he was flying, which had been scrutinized before by both the NTSB and FAA because of its crash history.
Inhofe was traveling from Salina, Kansas, to Tulsa on his first solo fight in the plane, investigators said. Radar and air traffic control exchanges indicated that the plane was operating normally along its flight path before it overshot a runway on its approach to Tulsa International Airport, the NTSB report said.
The aircraft went down about 3:45 p.m. Nov. 10, 2013, in a wooded area around five miles north of the airport runway.