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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 46128
Last updated: 2 November 2019
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Date:25-JUN-1997
Time:
Type:Silhouette image of generic RF6 model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different
Slingsby T-3 Firefly
Owner/operator:557th FTS USAF (557th FTS United States Air Force)
Registration: 93-05..
C/n / msn: 21..
Fatalities:Fatalities: 2 / Occupants: 2
Other fatalities:0
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:2 miles E of Colorado Springs, Colorado -   United States of America
Phase: Manoeuvring (airshow, firefighting, ag.ops.)
Nature:Military
Departure airport:KAFF
Destination airport:KAFF
Narrative:
Engine problem during pattern turn to downwind at about 500 ft. It entered an unintentional spin/crash from the Academy Airfield downwind, and came down 2 miles E of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Both instructor and student were fatally injured. The following month, on 25 July 1997, the entire T-3A fleet was grounded. According to the following published report (see link #6):

"The third fatal accident occurred in June '97 in the pattern at the Academy. The engine quit on climb out on the turn to downwind, entered a spin and hit the ground. The instructor and cadet were both killed. The official safety report said they couldn't determine if the engine was running but trust me it wasn't. An eye witness who lived near the crash site who constantly heard the T-3's overhead said she heard the aircraft sputter--that's what got her attention--and she watched it go into a spin. The T-3 with its big IO-540 engine climbed very nose high and an engine failure in a full power climb requires the nose to be lowered quickly to prevent a stall. To stall the T-3 at max power you have to raise the nose to a crazy high level. There's no way the instructor pilot allowed the student to raise the nose that high and suffer a max power stall. Both occupants wore parachutes but the altitude was too low for bailout. The Air Force still didn't practice gliding stalls in the T-3. The T-3A fleet was not grounded after this accident.

This led to a lawsuit: according to a press report in AVWeb.com on 19-2-2001:

"Another Training Accident Nets $4 Million Settlement.

Meanwhile, another training fatality has led to a $4 million decision. 20-year-old Air Force Academy cadet Pace Weber was killed during a June 1997 training flight in a T-3A Slingsby Firefly. Weber and his instructor, Capt. Glen Comeaux, lost control of the plane at 700 feet and crashed. Though British manufacturer Slingsby Aviation Ltd. says an Air Force investigation blamed pilot error, a Miami jury found the company liable, and ordered it to pay damages to Pace's parents, Terri and Hank Weber.

"We proved the plane was defective," claimed the Webers' attorney, Robert Parks. Parks' case centered on the Firefly's design, which he said was prone to engine stoppage caused by heat and altitude. "Slingsby was very cost-conscious, and not about to fix problems because they were too expensive," Parks said. Slingsby plans to appeal the verdict. "The evidence was very clear that none of the complaints that the plaintiffs said caused the accident did, in fact, cause the accident," said Slingsby lawyer John Murray. "We think the jury's conclusion was wrong from a liability standpoint, as a result of undue sympathy."

According to the Miami Sun-Sentinel newspaper:

"On February 16, 2001 it was announced that a federal jury in Miami awarded Weber's parents $4 million, placing most of the blame on the plane's British manufacturer, Slingsby Aviation Ltd. Weber's parents, Terri and Hank Weber, who are divorced, will split the award equally. The Webers, who originally sought $8 million in damages, argued the Firefly had latent mechanical problems, including a fuel system that resulted in dozens of engine failures."

Sources:

1. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,987632-3,00.html
2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slingsby_T67_Firefly#Accidents_.28T-3A.29
3. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1993.html
4. https://www.pprune.org/flying-instructors-examiners/13398-slingsby-firefly-s.html#post154538
5. https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/slingsby-to-appeal-against-us-ruling-blaming-trainer-for-fatal-crash-126592/
6. https://robrobinette.com/T-3A_Firefly.htm
7. http://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/ac/t-3.htm
8. http://gazette.com/t-3a-fleet-will-be-destroyed/article/10571
9. http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2001-02-16/news/0102160168_1_air-force-academy-firefly-cadet


Revision history:

Date/timeContributorUpdates
30-Oct-2008 11:52 harro Added
13-May-2016 15:57 RobRobinette Updated [Operator, Departure airport, Destination airport, Narrative]
31-May-2016 22:01 Dr.John Smith Updated [Registration, Cn, Location, Source, Narrative]

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