Arthur Alan Wolk
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Arthur Alan Wolk In the News

Court said Arthur Alan Wolk and The Wolk Law Firm Acted “Honestly and In Good Faith”
Read Opinion on Pennsylvania Superior Court’s Eigen v. Textron Lycoming Reciprocating Engine Div.

Wolk Obtains $53 Million Jury Verdict -- From Precision & Teledyne
Arthur Alan Wolk, together with Philip J. Ford and Cheryl DeLisle of The Wolk Law Firm, and Terence R. Perkins, of Smith, Hood, Perkins, Loucks, Stout & Orfinger in Daytona Beach, obtained the largest aviation verdict ever in Volusia County, Florida. The jury returned a verdict of more than Fifty-three Million Dollars ($53,000,000.00) in compensatory damages allocating 70% to Precision Airmotive, LLC, maker of aircraft carburetors, and 30% to Teledyne Continental Motors and Teledyne Technologies, makers of aircraft engines. The jury also returned a One and a Half Million Dollar ($1,500,000.00) verdict in punitive damages against Precision.

The trial ended Thursday July 26, 2007, nearly eight years to the day after the Cessna 150 training aircraft crashed when its Teledyne engine failed on a nighttime takeoff from the Ormond Beach, Florida Airport. The crash severely injured the two occupants: a flight instructor and a student pilot. The occupants suffered facial injuries which required extensive reconstructive surgery, and both occupants suffered years of depression and anxiety from post traumatic stress disorder. Both victims were working towards airline careers and as a result of their injuries were foreclosed from that occupation.

The cause of the engine failure was a defective carburetor purchased new from the defendant Precision and the engine suffering a stuck exhaust valve. Together with the overly rich fuel mixture from the carburetor malfunction and the valve malfunction, the engine quit. Wolk proved that the Teledyne stuck valve problem had been noted by Teledyne during fuel testing in 1994, but was never corrected. Wolk also proved that carburetor defects were known to the manufacturers since 1954 and after the carburetors failed Precision’s own test protocol in 1992, instead of more rigorous testing, Precision merely changed the test requirements. Results of the carburetor tests were questionable, but rather than use a gasket that would retain most of the required operation characteristics, Precision chose one that did not because the safer and better gasket would require changing the fluid used on its test bench.

Teledyne offered nothing before trial and Precision offered Three Million Dollars ($3,000,000.00) against a Twenty-five Million Dollar ($25,000,000.00) demand. The offer in mediation was Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00). The proceedings were unusual in that they were video broadcast on the internet in real time.  The nine day trial, which was expected to last three to four weeks, had a bizarre twist. After the plaintiffs rested, Precision called its product support manager who claimed that the torque required to keep the carburetor halves together in service really was not intended to be required after assembly, and he denied there was a problem with loose screws by claiming that any problem was related to a particular engine’s vibration. Wolk proved that carburetor bowl screws were repeatedly found loose in new carburetors out of their packing boxes before engine installation had even occurred.

Precision also called a mechanic expert who opined that high engine temperatures and lack of specified oil changes and unsatisfactory engine cooling baffles caused the valve stickage and not any defect in the carburetor or engine. Wolk established that no official investigator found any problem whatsoever with either the engine baffles, oil changes or maintenance issues with the engine. More importantly, an exemplar aircraft was flown in test without any baffles at all with no adverse results. In addition, Wolk proved that the witness’s direct testimony was inaccurate and that the witness had been criticized as unreliable and misleading by a prior court while witness’s testimony on direct stated that his only prior problem was that a court that didn’t like an exhibit he made.

After cross-examination of two of some twenty identified defense experts, Precision rested and Teledyne called no one in its defense, relying on the two discredited joint expert witnesses. The jury’s verdict was swift, taking only three hours. The defense strategy for Precision and Teledyne was their typical personal attacks on plaintiffs’ witnesses and Arthur Alan Wolk, plaintiffs’ counsel, a strategy that has repeatedly proved disastrous for these defendants.

The largest aviation verdict of all time was also obtained by Arthur Alan Wolk and The Wolk Law Firm team in Florida, -- Four-Hundred Eighty Million Dollars ($480,000,000.00) in 2001 against Cessna Aircraft Company.

Arthur Alan Wolk

New Airworthiness Directive on Cessna Caravan Vindicates
The Wolk Law Firm's
Warnings on Known Icing
In a stunning reversal the Federal Aviation Administration has issued AD 2007-10-15 on the Cessna Caravan.

Icing wind tunnel research commissioned by The Wolk Law Firm in connection with the case of Randolph vs.Cessna revealed serious flaws in the design and operation of the deicing system of that aircraft. Experts hired by Arthur Alan Wolk confirmed that the problems ranged from the choice of wing airfoil, design of the deicing boots, flaws in the design of the inflation hardware, inadequate stall warning, underpowered engine, and complete inadequacy of the pilot's operating handbook for safe flight into known icing conditions.

After a spate of icing accidents Cessna Aircraft Company, encouraged by the FAA and the NTSB revised the Pilot's Operating Handbook to prohibit the use of flaps when airspeed reductions occurred due to unshed ice accumulations.

One of the experts working for The Wolk Law Firm, Harry Riblet, a noted designer of general aviation airfoils openly criticized the Cessna, FAA, and NTSB action and wrote to them repeatedly warning that use of the flaps could help but not cure the controllability problems with the airplane when flying in icing conditions. Riblet was ridiculed by the Government and Cessna even though his airfoils adopted for use by homebuilders around the world had proven themselves stall spin proof.

This Airworthiness Directive, with the full force and effect of law, now removes any restriction for the use of flaps in icing conditions and instead requires their use when the aircraft airspeed is reduced to 110 knots or less.

It also prohibits the flight of the aircraft in moderate icing conditions for which the aircraft was originally certificated and removes the words "certified for flight into known icing conditions" from the handbook without revoking the certification entirely.

The AD requires installation of a low speed warning in all Cessna Caravans and cautions pilots that the stall warning may be completely unreliable in icing conditions.

What is remarkable about the Airworthiness Directive is what it doesn't do.

1. It does not revoke the "known icing certification" of the Caravan which means it may still be dispatched into conditions where ice is reported or forecast.

2. It ignores the fact that moderate icing is unpredictable so it may still not be possible for pilots to safely exit those conditions.

3. It ignores the bad design of the deicing boots and does not require the introduction of a water separator into the system to prevent ice boot inflation line icing.

4. It does not require that all Caravan pilots be taught how to recognize and recover from a tail stall.

5. It does not require the installation of vortex generators on the boots of the wing and the horizontal stabilizer to delay the onset of ice induced stall.

6. It does not require Cessna to install a stall warning indicator that is impervious to ice induced errors.

7. It defines moderate icing encounters as a reduction in airspeed to 120 knots in cruise flight which is already in most instances a state beyond which the aircraft will be recoverable once control is lost.

8. It further defines moderate icing as an accumulation of 1/4 inch on the wing strut which is the amount of ice accumulation Cessna requires before operation of the deicing boots in the first place even in light icing conditions.

What this AD demonstrates once again is the FAA does not understand yet the aerodynamics of the Cessna Caravan but had to do something to stem the constant series of ice related accidents with these aircraft.

Instead of doing what's right and what's needed, it granted Cessna yet another reprieve at the expense of safety. More will die or be maimed next winter but hopefully this is a start to the end of this battle.

Arthur Alan Wolk
June 2007