I usually focus my blog (and my law practice) on civil rights issues, but sometimes big corporations can step on human rights just as well as the government. United Airlines is one of those companies, missing no opportunity over the past several years to demonstrate that it simply does not care about anything but profit. From beating up its passengers, to killing the family dog, to refusing to block middle seats throughout the pandemic — all while taking $15 billion in federal coronavirus aid (and demanding $15 billion more) — it almost seemed like every time something went wrong with domestic plane flights, you could count on United to be involved.
So two weeks ago, when a Boeing 777-200 flying from Denver to Honolulu lost chunks of its engine a few minutes after takeoff, treating the passengers to an uncontrolled engine fire and an emergency landing, it wasn’t particularly a surprise to hear that United was the carrier.
A passenger’s view from UA328 on February 20th, 2021.
The ATC recording from the cockpit demonstrates that the plane was piloted by two calm and collected crewmembers, who thankfully were able to land the plane without any serious physical injuries, but were unable to extinguish the fire in-air (despite cutting fuel) and left the 231 passengers on board in fear for their lives for a total of 18 minutes.
Airplane engines don’t simply explode mid-air unless something was done wrong. The NTSB has preliminarily opined that “metal fatigue” caused one of the fan blades to separate (taking a second blade with it) and flew off into the fuselage, possibly further damaging the controls that would have been able to put out the fire. But how would United know that the metal was fatigued? Perhaps because the plane is 25 years old (making it one of the oldest 777s in service in the world), because there are straight-forward tests available to check for metal fatigue (and, early reports show that was last done five years ago), but most importantly, because the plane in question — tail number N772UA — has a sister plane — N773UA — that lost a fan blade for this reason in 2018!
To add insult to injury, the passengers on UA328 were rebooked on a “new plane” to get to their destination, but you won’t need 3 guesses as to which plane United chose: none other than N773UA. You can’t make this up.
It is time United stop playing games with safety. I was retained by a passenger on UA328 and today I filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all passengers on the plane who were subject to the intense emotional distress that comes along with watching your airplane on fire for 18 minutes, wondering if you’re going to make it safely to the ground or end up in a fiery crash. No one should have to live through that as a result of an airline’s refusal to take proper care of its planes and its customers, and I look forward to forcing United to make it right as best is possible.
Case is Schnell v. United Airlines, No. 21-CV-683, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
That is what also happens when the airlines farm out maintenance to the lowest bidder.
That is also why I will never fly on a airplane unless I’m rich enough to own it and pay for proper maintenance. I’ve watched the shows like Air Disasters and read up on a few crashes in the past. I’ve seen other documentaries as well. Generally, the manufacturers of parts know how long they will last and they tell the buyers/owners when to replace them, usually long before they fail. If a part is designed to last say 10,000 hours, replace it at 8,000 and no later than 9,000. That way there is only the tiniest of chance of a failure. Smart folks will do so even sooner while other repairs or maintenance is done.
This is like replacing the timing belt on a front wheel drive car. When you replace that part, you should always replace the water pump as well. It’s a $30 to $50 part in most cases. Replacing the timing belt already costs around $300 to $400 or more. The cost of replacing the water pump is almost nothing and the mechanic is looking at the thing. It’s usually 4 or 5 bolts, pull off old pump, put on new one, reinstall the bolts. Thing is, not replacing it only to fail a few months later means you get the cost of the timing belt repair again because it requires the same tear down procedure and time. I might add, timing belts and water pumps last around the same amount of time, water pump a little longer but not the life of two timing belts. One would think that maintaining airplanes would follow some of the same logic. Sadly, Jon sees one that doesn’t. In my opinion, Jon may want to look at some others as well.
I guess the airlines think the chance of a lawsuit and its cost is cheaper than a airplane repair. If that is the case, it says a lot about the humanity of the people making those decisions. I get profit and all but to put profit before a lot of human lives, that’s just crazy. Sadly, that is what it comes to with to many companies.
Your expanding Jon but, go get ’em.