Webb v. US, Civ. No. 90-C-625G

CourtU.S. District Court — District of Utah
Citation840 F. Supp. 1484
Docket NumberCiv. No. 90-C-625G,90-C-826J.
PartiesAndrew Martineau WEBB, Laura Louise Webb, Adam Lynn Webb and Lydia Jeannine Webb, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem, Jeannine Webb, and Jeannine Webb for herself, all as heirs of Lynn Martineau Webb and Jeannine Webb, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lynn Martineau Webb, deceased, and Felicity Dawn Riding and Danielle Elaine Riding, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem, Michael C. Roberg, and Monica Riding, all as heirs of Richard A. Riding, and Michael C. Roberg as Personal Representative of the Estate of Richard A. Riding, deceased, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America and Does 1 Through 55, Inclusive, Defendants. Cassie Anne CHARLESWORTH, Cara Lee Charlesworth, and Robert Lonnie Charlesworth, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, and Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, individually, all as heirs of Alan Robert Charlesworth, deceased, and Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Alan Robert Charlesworth, deceased, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant.
Decision Date10 January 1994

840 F. Supp. 1484

Andrew Martineau WEBB, Laura Louise Webb, Adam Lynn Webb and Lydia Jeannine Webb, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem, Jeannine Webb, and Jeannine Webb for herself, all as heirs of Lynn Martineau Webb and Jeannine Webb, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lynn Martineau Webb, deceased, and Felicity Dawn Riding and Danielle Elaine Riding, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem, Michael C. Roberg, and Monica Riding, all as heirs of Richard A. Riding, and Michael C. Roberg as Personal Representative of the Estate of Richard A. Riding, deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America and Does 1 Through 55, Inclusive, Defendants.

Cassie Anne CHARLESWORTH, Cara Lee Charlesworth, and Robert Lonnie Charlesworth, minors, By and Through their guardian ad litem Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, and Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, individually, all as heirs of Alan Robert Charlesworth, deceased, and Saundra Ayers Charlesworth, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Alan Robert Charlesworth, deceased, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, Defendant.

Civ. Nos. 90-C-625G, 90-C-826J.

United States District Court, D. Utah, C.D.

January 10, 1994.


840 F. Supp. 1485
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
840 F. Supp. 1486
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
840 F. Supp. 1487
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
840 F. Supp. 1488
COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED
840 F. Supp. 1489
Joel M. Allred and Kimberly Allred, Salt Lake City, UT, for plaintiffs Jeannine A.
840 F. Supp. 1490
Webb, et al., and Monica H. Riding, et al., in Civ. No. 90-C-625G (Webb, Riding cases)

Moses Lebovits, Lebovits & David, Los Angeles, CA, for plaintiffs Saundra A. Charlesworth, et al., in Civ. No. 90-C-826J (Charlesworth case).

Luke B. Marsh, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, and Mark Baylen, F.A.A., for defendant U.S.

J. THOMAS GREENE, District Judge.

This matter came on for a consolidated trial before the court without a jury on March 1 through March 19, 1993. Joel M. Allred and Kimberly Allred represented the plaintiffs, Jeannine A. Webb, et al., and Monica H. Riding, et al., in Civil No. 90-C-625G (Webb, Riding cases). Moses Lebovits represented the plaintiffs, Saundra A. Charlesworth, et al., in Civil No. 90-C-826J (Charlesworth case). Luke B. Marsh of the U.S. Department of Justice and Mark Baylen of the Federal Aviation Administration represented the defendant United States of America in all of the consolidated cases. The court heard live witness testimony, and received summaries of non-live witness testimony as well as deposition testimony. The parties offered numerous exhibits into evidence. On March 19, 1993, the court heard final arguments of counsel, after which the court permitted the filing of post trial memorandums and other submissions of counsel. Now having reviewed the evidence and legal memorandums, the court makes and enters the following:

FINDINGS OF FACT

I. BACKGROUND

1. On Friday, February 5, 1988, at approximately 3:00 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (MST), a Piper PA-28-181 Archer aircraft N8471F, while on a cross-country flight, crashed in Chaves County, New Mexico, less than seven nautical miles from the Roswell Industrial Air Center ("Roswell Airport").

2. The private pilot, Alan R. Charlesworth ("Charlesworth"), along with his two passengers, Lynn M. Webb and Richard A. Riding, were killed.

3. The Piper Archer aircraft N8471F, was leased by Charlesworth, from Executive Aircraft International, Inc., a Utah corporation doing business at the Salt Lake City International Airport ("Salt Lake Airport").

4. The flight originated at the Salt Lake Airport on February 5, 1988, at approximately 08:30 a.m. MST.

5. Pilot Charlesworth was authorized to fly under visual conditions, and had filed a visual flight rules ("VFR") flight plan. Charlesworth was a relatively inexperienced pilot. He had obtained his pilot's license a few months before the crash, and had accumulated 122 total hours piloting. He was not an "instrumented rated" pilot.

6. Aircraft operations are divided into two categories: flights conducted under Visual Flight Rules (VFR), and flights conducted under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). These terms, IFR and VFR, are accepted aviation terminology, and are customarily used by members of the aviation community. Visual Flight Rules are found at 14 C.F.R. §§ 91.151 through 91.159. Instrument Flight Rules are found at 14 C.F.R. §§ 91.167 through 91.193. In order to operate under Instrument Flight Rules, a pilot must undergo additional training and possess a current instrument rating. 14 C.F.R. §§ 61.3(e) and 61.65.

7. In addition to describing the two types of aircraft operations, the acronyms IFR and VFR are also used to describe general weather conditions. VFR weather requires minimums of three miles horizontal visibility and a cloud ceiling of 1,000 feet above the ground. IFR weather is weather in which the VFR minimums are not met. The terms IFR and VFR may also be used to describe the instrument flying capability of an aircraft and/or the pilot. An aircraft equipped to fly in IFR weather conditions is said to be "IFR equipped." A pilot who is qualified to fly in IFR weather conditions is said to be "IFR rated."

8. An airport's "control zone" is usually defined as the area included in a five mile radius surrounding the airport, from the ground up to 14,500 feet. A pilot may not legally execute a VFR flight within the control

840 F. Supp. 1491
zone unless minimum VFR weather conditions are present. Minimum VFR conditions outside a control zone are different than minimum VFR conditions inside a control zone. Inside a control zone, the pilot's minimum VFR conditions are the same as those used by meteorologists to describe minimum VFR weather conditions: at least three miles prevailing horizontal visibility and a cloud ceiling of at least 1000 feet

9. When IFR weather conditions prevail at an airport (less than three miles horizontal visibility and/or a cloud ceiling of less than 1000 feet), pilots flying under a VFR flight plan may not enter an airport's control zone unless the pilot requests and obtains a "Special VFR" clearance. To obtain a Special VFR clearance, the reported prevailing horizontal visibility must be at least 1 mile. 14 C.F.R. § 91.157(d); ATCM s 7-46. Once such a clearance is issued, the pilot has the duty to remain clear of clouds.

10. On February 4 and 5, 1988, prior to the crash, Pilot Charlesworth contacted Air Traffic Control Flight Service specialists ("FSS specialists") at the Cedar City Flight Service Station ("Cedar City FSS"), located at Cedar City, Utah, and at the Roswell Flight Service Station ("Roswell FSS"), located at Roswell, New Mexico. These FSS specialists are employees of the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). The pilot also contacted Air Traffic Controllers, also employed by the FAA, at Salt Lake City, Utah, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Roswell, New Mexico. Plaintiffs allege that the FAA employees who spoke with the pilot before the crash were negligent in that they provided the pilot misleading and inaccurate information concerning the weather and airport conditions in the Roswell area on the afternoon of February 5, 1988. Plaintiffs allege that this FAA negligence was the sole proximate cause of the crash. Defendant alleges that the crash was Pilot Charlesworth's sole responsibility.

11. A Flight Service Station ("FSS") is an FAA facility in which FSS specialists provide various services to pilots. These services include providing weather briefings and other pertinent weather and aeronautical information prior to and during flight, and receiving and processing flight plans. In fulfilling their duties to pilot's and passengers, FSS specialists must become familiar with the procedures and requirements of the Flight Services Manual, FAA Order 7110.10 ("FSM").

12. In providing weather briefings, FSS specialists rely primarily on forecast weather reports, including area forecasts, terminal forecasts, and winds aloft forecasts. They also utilize hourly surface weather observations taken at designated reporting points where there is a certificated weather observer. Normally, FSS specialists also have access to pictorial charts such as surface analysis charts, radar summary charts, and weather depiction charts. Pilots may obtain a preflight briefing by visiting a FSS, or by telephone conversation with a FSS specialist.

13. Ordinarily FSS specialists obtain weather information and aeronautical data from a computer system called LABS (Leased Service A/B system). The LABS Weather Message Switching Center is located at Kansas City, Missouri. This switching facility serves as the gateway for FSS specialists to obtain weather information for pilots. The FSS equipment used by the specialists to obtain and send weather information to and from the switching center consists of a keyboard and a video screen. If available, the weather requested by the specialist will appear on the specialists' video screen. If there is a circuit problem or difficulty with the computers, a back-up procedure is provided as set forth in the FSM s 3-5.

14. FAA facilities can also access weather information prepared by the National Weather Service ("NWS"), at Roswell, New Mexico, and at other Flight Service Stations. The NWS communications system is a system separate from the FAA's communications system. NWS information also may be obtained through a switching center in Kansas City. The NWS has all of the weather data required to brief pilots who cannot be briefed "due to circuit problems" at an FSS, although NWS offices do not have information regarding airport conditions, and do not accept flight plans.

840 F. Supp. 1492

15. Before departure, a pilot may contact an FSS specialist to obtain weather briefings. Weather briefings generally fall into three types of categories: (a) standard briefings; (b) outlook briefings; and (c) abbreviated briefings.

(a) Standard Briefing

The...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 practice notes
  • Turner v. U.S., Nos. 1:06CV223
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • September 8, 2010
    ..."are burdened with concurrent duties of due care for the protection of the aircraft and its occupants." Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. 1484, 1511 (D.Utah 1994); accord Redhead v. United States, 686 F.2d 178, 182 (3d Cir.1982) (liability of pilot and air traffic control may be concurrent......
  • Sexton v. U.S., No. 99-102-CIV-ORL-3ABI(22).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • December 18, 2000
    ...the direction, and so inform air traffic control. Thurston v. United States, 888 F.Supp. at 1109; accord, Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. at 1484. If a pilot does not fully understand a clearance, or considers it unacceptable from a safety standpoint, he must request clarification or ame......
  • Badilla v. Nat'l Air Cargo Inc., Case # 12-CV-1066-FPG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • January 14, 2020
    ...the operation of his aircraft". Richardson v. United States, 372 F. Supp. 921, 925-26 (N.D. Cal. 1974). See also Webb v. United States, 840 F. Supp. 1484, 1514 (D. Utah 1994) ("[c]ontrollers have the responsibility to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic"); Redhead......
  • In re Greenwood Air Crash, No. IP 93-9446-C-T/F.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • February 3, 1995
    ...Fritz Negligence on the part of pilots does not relieve an air traffic controller of his responsibility. Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. 1484, 1511 (D.Utah 1994). "Because both are responsible for the safety of the aircraft, negligence on the part of the pilot does not automatically reli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Turner v. U.S., Nos. 1:06CV223
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • September 8, 2010
    ..."are burdened with concurrent duties of due care for the protection of the aircraft and its occupants." Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. 1484, 1511 (D.Utah 1994); accord Redhead v. United States, 686 F.2d 178, 182 (3d Cir.1982) (liability of pilot and air traffic control may be concurrent......
  • Sexton v. U.S., No. 99-102-CIV-ORL-3ABI(22).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • December 18, 2000
    ...the direction, and so inform air traffic control. Thurston v. United States, 888 F.Supp. at 1109; accord, Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. at 1484. If a pilot does not fully understand a clearance, or considers it unacceptable from a safety standpoint, he must request clarification or ame......
  • Badilla v. Nat'l Air Cargo Inc., Case # 12-CV-1066-FPG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • January 14, 2020
    ...the operation of his aircraft". Richardson v. United States, 372 F. Supp. 921, 925-26 (N.D. Cal. 1974). See also Webb v. United States, 840 F. Supp. 1484, 1514 (D. Utah 1994) ("[c]ontrollers have the responsibility to promote the safe, orderly, and expeditious flow of air traffic"); Redhead......
  • In re Greenwood Air Crash, No. IP 93-9446-C-T/F.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • February 3, 1995
    ...Fritz Negligence on the part of pilots does not relieve an air traffic controller of his responsibility. Webb v. United States, 840 F.Supp. 1484, 1511 (D.Utah 1994). "Because both are responsible for the safety of the aircraft, negligence on the part of the pilot does not automatically reli......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT