A Cook County jury has returned a verdict in favor of the families of three of seven crew members who perished in the dramatic crash of a National Airlines 747 cargo airplane in Bagram, Afghanistan on April 29, 2013. The crash itself was captured on a dashcam video that went viral over the internet shortly after the accident occurred.
The plaintiffs sued National Air Cargo, Inc., an affiliated company of National Airlines, which through the employees of its regional office in the Middle East, planned, loaded and restrained five Mine Resistant Armor Protected (“MRAP”) vehicles for transport on a Boeing 747-400 converted freighter from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan to Bagram and then on to Dubai World Airport for offloading onto a sea vessel. The MRAPs were owned by the U.S.
The MRAPs were owned by the U.S. and were ultimately destined for Yermo, California under the terms of a multimodal contract between National Airlines and the U.S. Department of Defense. National Airlines had assigned the performance of work under this multimodal contract to a joint venture between National Air Cargo, Inc. in Orchard Park, NY and National Air Cargo Middle East FZE in Dubai, UAE.
There were five MRAPs loaded on the accident airplane: two 12-ton M-ATVs and three 18 ton Cougars. The evidence showed there were an insufficient number of restraints or tie down points to restrain these vehicles, and the most that could be safely transported on the plane was one M-ATV and no Cougars. Plaintiffs introduced evidence that the straps used to restrain the cargo were in poor condition, with some past their expiration dates, and that an insufficient number of straps were used to restrain the vehicles. National Air Cargo Middle East provided for use of 24 straps with the M-ATVs and 26 straps for the Cougars. Boeing determined that a minimum of 60 straps were needed just for the smaller M-ATVs.
Upon takeoff from the intermediate stopover in Bagram, the restraining devices for one or more of the MRAPs failed, and the rear-most MRAP went through the aft bulkhead in the tail of the airplane, damaging flight control systems and hydraulics to the extent that the airplane became unrecoverable. The airplane quickly pitched nose-up and entered an aerodynamic stall causing it to fall and hit the ground.
The jury awarded the estate of Captain Brad Hasler a total of $47.25 million in damages. The estate of First Officer Jamie Brokaw was awarded $43 million, and the estate of Captain Jeremy Lipka, an off-duty pilot in the cockpit, was awarded $25.5 million. Each of these awards included an amount of $5 million for the shock and fright each of the men experienced from the time of takeoff until the time of the airplane’s impact with the ground.
“The jury’s verdict sent a message that our society still values human life and safety over the pursuit of increased corporate profit,” said Donald Nolan, who along with Thomas Routh of Nolan Law Group represented the estates of Jamie Brokaw and Jeremy Lipka. The estate of Brad Hasler was represented by David Katzman and Bruce Lampert of Katzman, Lampert & McClune in Troy, Michigan.
Trials in the cases for the remaining four crew members are expected to be set shortly.
So, the loadmaster and pilots are being found to be not at fault for loading and operating this plane?!
That would be correct! Woefully inadequate company procedures are to blame here, NOT the flight crew. Let’s also not forget that they lost their lives and therefore each of their families lost their income. These are mostly young families with children to raise. Justice was served.
My06Xbox right! Thwy knew their take off load and the load masters knew they were in the wrong to load that much. I don’t think any award other than the replacement costs of vehicles to us tax payers. Stupid negligence pays out millions
My06Xbox’s observation is a good one. The crew has the ultimate responsibility for operating a safe aircraft. There are load masters that supervise and approve the load. The pilots are trained and expected to check the load. There was a serious break down of procedures here.
These cargo companies sacrifice safety for profit all the time.
Glad to see they are going to have to face the music.
The front end crew rely on the rear crew to ensure all is secure and safe. We do not know what restraint equipment was offered by the operating airline….and whether any such arrangements were actually in the contract. Regardless such a tragic loss.
I was wondering about the same thing. I was under the impression that the Pilot and lead loadmaster were supposed to check all equipment before, during and after loading is complete to make sure it’s correct and that the weight is correctly distributed.
As My06Xbox states: “So, the loadmaster and pilots are being found to be not at fault for loading and operating this plane?!”
I’ll add this, that the pilots families get a settlement, but the flight mechanics flight family gets… NOTHING!!! Why are the aircraft mechanics ALWAYS left out of the AVIATION STORIES???
The article says that there were trials scheduled for settlements for.four additional crew members. Perhaps they were the flight mechanics?
I work as a contractor, we are pushed to do the Jobs the army will not do. And do it with next to nothing. It’s criminal and unprofessional. The army should do there job totally. That’s why the Seabees we’re develop to supply qualified contractors in the field of combat. Why were they not loaded on a military transport plane. This commercial profit of wars is totally out of hand. Puts civilian personnel is a bad situations all the time. and I agree where is theloadmasters cases ???
I heard from multiple sources that a ground crew who thought the MRAPs were being offloaded in Bagram loosened all the restraining devices while the pilots were off the plane, then left (either temporarily or there was a shift change). The pilots came back and did normal prep for takeoff, not knowing what occurred. There was no flying loadmaster on the crew to check the cargo, and this was not the pilot’s job so they would not have checked it. Glad the families were awarded some compensation, though I’m sure every one of them would rather have their family members back instead.
The strap loosens when it takes off from Camp Bastion. During the refueling in Bagram, the Load Master did not do the routine check on the cargo before they daparted OAIX.
The pilots and loadmasters on such cargo flights rely on the ground operators for the proper loads and limits.
The loadmadters verify the loads were loaded in the proper stations with the prescribed restrains as the ground company specifies.
Then the pilot verifies with the loadmasters that the weights and stations that the ground operators specified were loaded in those stations.
But neither the pilots or the loadmasters specify the restraining systems or weigh the cargo. All specifications, planning are the responsibility of those ground services that are now being held accountable.