Arizona Aviation Accidents at Air Shows: Who is Liable?

Air shows have been a favorite pastime of American adults and children alike for decades. From the acrobatic displays of grace, speed, and power to the important aviation history knowledge to be gained, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Of course, when there is a high volume of air traffic in a small space (typically at smaller airports that are not used to handling traffic numbers that an airshow brings), and a mix of aircraft ranging from WWII fighters to hot air balloons, the risk associated with such events is exponentially higher than operations as usual. Couple that with large crowds that may not be familiar with aviation safety, and the odds of injury or death start to grow.

Order in the Chaos: Who is Responsible?

Many of you may remember the tragic crash at the 2011 Reno Air Races involving a P-51D Mustang that crashed into box seats near the field, killing 10 spectators and the pilot, and injuring nearly 70 other people. This devastating event only proved how difficult it was to pinpoint liability, and despite a mechanical failure being found as the primary culprit, many other factors came into play.

If you have been injured at an air show—whether you were a pilot or spectator—there are many potentially liable parties, such as:

  • Air Show Hosts and Organizers: Air show organizers take on a lot of responsibility in order to host an air show. From hiring on-site first responders to purchasing liability insurance, if the organizer has missed a key detail and you are injured as a result, they will be found liable. In Reno, the event promoters sold highly-priced VIP box seats in front of the grandstands that placed the crowd dangerously close to the racing aircraft.
  • Airport Authorities: If the air show is at a public use airfield, airport authorities have a duty to ensure that people using the facility will be safe.
  • Mechanics: If an aircraft causes injury to others and it was found to be the result of improper maintenance, the mechanic that did the work may be held responsible. In the 2011 Reno crash, the NTSB found that single-use locknuts were reused in the trim tab that eventually loosed and fell off, causing an irrecoverable loss of control.
  • Pilots: If a pilot was found to be operating in a reckless manner, injured parties may be able to seek damages from the pilot or the pilot’s estate. Jimmy Leeward’s estate is facing several lawsuits following the crash, as it was found that he had pushed the P-51’s speed about 35 knots above structural limits.

If You Have Been Injured at an Air Show, Call the Attorneys Who Know Aviation

At Curry, Pearson & Wooten, our Phoenix aviation accident attorneys do not just know the law, they are also seasoned aviation professionals. If you or a loved one has suffered injury as a result of negligence at an air show, do not trust your case with just any lawyer. Call us today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case, and let us get you the compensation that you deserve.