Blame In Plane Crash: Businessman, Family still missing


Since this Cessna Citation CJ4 went missing late Thursday night December 29, 2016, there has been a lot of arm-chair piloting/quarterbacking commentary posted online. Napoli Shkolnik aviation attorneys will not engage in this type of discussion. What is clear at this point is that John T. Fleming was both a successful businessman AND an experienced pilot. The registered owner of N614SB—Maverick Air, LLC—is an Ohio business entity incorporated in 2005 by Mr. Fleming. John T. Fleming has been involved in aviation for over a decade, held several pilot certificates/ratings including airplane multiengine land, and was almost certainly proficient in using the advanced automation in a 2012 Cessna CJ4. Based on my pilot and plane and helicopter crash investigation experience, there are far too many unknowns to speculate on possible causes of this aviation accident at this juncture. Just as a doctor performs a differential diagnosis to rule out possible medical conditions, so too does a crash investigator create a list of all possible causes, then as the evidence comes together, systematically rule in/out each possibility to get to the root causes. The 2012 Cessna CJ4 comes standard with a cockpit voice recorder, a 3-frequency emergency locator transmitter, and there will likely also be performance information downloadable from the Williams’ engines.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived on scene this morning. The NTSB will likely release its preliminary statement in the next few days. It is too early to determine the causes of this aviation accident. Weather at KBKL (Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport) at 10:45 PM local time was approximately winds 260 at 23 knots, gusting to 32 knots, 6 statute miles visibility, light snow and mist, with a ceiling at 2,100 feet above ground level (broken) and an overcast layer at 2,600 feet. Air Traffic Control has not released whether the pilot made a mayday call or declared an emergency prior to the aircraft disappearing from its radar. This Cessna Citation CJ4 was manufactured in 2012, powered by two Williams’ FJ44-4A turbo-fan engines with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), equipped with top of the line automation and avionics, including the Collins 3000 series Flight Management System, and certificated for single pilot use.

The NTSB will do excellent work investigating this crash; however, NTSB practice is to include party representatives in its investigatory team. There is a high likelihood that Cessna and possibly other product manufacturers will have representatives actively involved in the investigation of this aviation accident. The victims’ families should have their own party representative involved as early as possible. The manufacturing and maintenance representatives will seek to protect themselves from liability and help steer the NTSB. These families deserve their own eyes and ears working now as well.

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Image Courtesy of Cleveland 19 News Coverage: view the full video here