Slingsby Aviation plans to appeal against a US district court's ruling that the UK manufacturer is responsible for the 1997 crash of a US Air Force operated T-3A Firefly trainer that killed the instructor and cadet pilot. It also faces another product liability case bought by the family of a second dead Air Force Academy student.

A federal jury has awarded Cadet Pace Weber's parents $4 million damages against Slingsby arising from the third and final fatal crash of a T-3 before the USAF grounded the trainer. The family of Cadet Dennis Rando, who was killed in a second T-3 accident in 1996, is also suing Slingsby.

Plaintiff lawyer Robert Parks blamed the crash on an "ill designed, defective fuel delivery system and an aircraft with dangerous spin characteristics". The USAF decided to permanently ground the T-3 after abandoning efforts to modify and flight test a modified fuel system.

Slingsby's defence presented video testimony from two USAF Test Center test pilots who gave the T-3 a clean bill of health after evaluating the aircraft for 300h in 1998. "Their feeling was the aircraft should be returned to service unmodified," says defence lawyer John Murray.

The USAF blamed the first crash in 1995, which also killed the student and instructor, and the last accident on pilot error. In the case of the second accident, the USAF did not pinpoint blame, but said the instructor should have been able to land. None of the accident reports, however, were admissible in the Florida court.

Murray claims that none of the accidents were due to vapour- induced engine failures, as stoppages at high temperatures were confined to ground running.

Source: Flight International