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Damage to Aircraft: pilot's responsiblility

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New member
May 1, 2005
Hello all,

This is my first post so I'll introduce myself. My name is Tom, I'm a pilot for [Censorsed] in Bethel Alaska flying the Caravan. I've been flying for this company incedent free for 1 and a half years in Western Alaska. I started flying the C-207 and was upgraded to the Caravan 6 months ago. I have over 500 hours of Caravan time.

Here is my question: Two nights ago my plane was blown into another on the ramp by 30 knots of wind on an icy ramp. The result was damage to the rudder on my plane, and wingtip/aileron and aileron trim on the other plane. Total cost of parts alone is over $20,000. They have already repaired one plane and the other is waiting for a new rudder. My DO wants me to personally pay 10% of the bill since he believes that I am responsible for the damage as my plane wasn't tied down. I concure that it should have been tied down or hangered, however there was not a tie down spot available and MX failed to pull it into the hanger. The incident occured at 4:30am when I was home asleep... so I wasn't on duty, however night MX was on duty and I believe they should have been in custody of the airplane. Our duty days are from 800am to 1000pm everyday.

Anyway, so what do you think of the above story and the punishment by the DO? I am not fired but I was given extras days off without pay since obviously there is no airplane for me to fly anyway.

Thanks for your thoughts.
What are they going to do with the insurance money?

I wouldn't pay.

Now would probably a good time to get some legal advice. Perhaps from AOPA legal if you are a member.
Your Director of Operations is an idiot. I've had pilots pay for the second flat-spotted tire, but with structural damage, either retrain and retain, or fire. Asking a pilot to pay for aircraft damage is a little like suing the captain of the Titanic. Foolish.

You should have found a way to secure that aircraft, or call someone who would. If maintenance said they'd take care of the aircraft, then it's no longer your responsibility. Was the aircraft pointed into the prevailing wind or gusts, and restrained as much as possible (chocks, or otherwise)? Was a vehicle available to park in front of it as a windbreak? Water under the bridge, now, but always be thinking about that.

If the company presses the issue, you probably should consider looking elsewhere.

Only you know if you were truly responsible. If I were responsible, I would offer to pay for damages; that's sense of honor and responsibility. A descent employer, assuming you took all necessary precautions and followed company protocol in leaving aircraft overnight, would decline the payment.

If the issue is too much to move past, the company should let the pilot go. If it's something the company can live with, the company should counsel and retrain, as appropriate. Fines in some cases are appropriate, but certainly we can't judge that with the little bit of information given.

What is the company policy regarding leaving your aircraft overnight? Did you speak to maintenance about securing the aircraft or moving it into a hangar?

According to 14 CFR 91.3, who has the final authority for that aircraft?
OK, so what I'm understanding is that you walked away from an unsecured airplane in this weather? I know what sort of weather we've been having across the state, warm temps, rain, resulting in water on ice, and high winds. It wasn't like some freak, unexpected windstorm suddenly blowing out of nowhere on a bluebird clear summer day. If you walked into the hangar and said hey my plane isn't tied down, are you going to put it in the hangar, and Mx told you sure, we'll get to it in 15 minutes, but they never did, well that's one thing. But if you just walked away, assuming that somone else would take care of it, and not making sure someone would, well, you're primarily responsible for the accident. Being PIC means more than just wiggling the yoke and moving the throttle back and forth.

As far as paying for it, well, if you made every effort to get it taken care of, and Mx dropped the ball, I wouldn't pay. If you just left it on wet ice in the wind...well, what's the job worth to you? Enough to pay what they're asking? If not, head down the road and look for another job, if it comes to that. I don't think that DO is an idiot. Yeah, it's unusual, but it appears you cost the company a pile of money. I'd be willing to bet that they don't carry hull insurance. So, what would you do if you let a friend borrow *your* own personal airplane and he left it untied in some of the nastiest weather we've had for months and it got damaged?
Wow...I gotta agree with the Avbug and Asquared about being Captain and having a responsibility for the ship.

Good luck with that dealio Liufeng! I'd say get an attorney and have him look into what you are responsible for and take it from there.

Obviously, an employer has the power to make you take a lateral transfer, so you have to weigh how important this job is to you and how important their references are going to be towards your next job.

I'm thinking they are willing to keep you on, rather than let you go.

Once again, good luck. Let us know how you do.
Have to agree with A Squared, you are solely responsible for taking reasonable precautions when you have the aircraft, telling the lineman and leaving doesn't do the job, that's why you make the big bucks!

ps Welcome Tom:)

Man I'm sorry to hear about this I know how ugly it can get out there (meteorlogically and otherwise).

If you *must* pay, and I'm not suggesting you should or shouldn't, perhaps you can arrange a payment schedule where they make deductions from your paycheck rather than one lump sum.

And then keep your nose clean.

But I have mixed feelings about finding a lawyer. This really sounds like a personal choice and a lawyer may end up costing you a little money as well...maybe not $2000...ah what do I know...?

If it were me (suggesting for one second that perhaps I had been in a similiar situation once) I'd tell them to bugger off and go get another job...

...but if you like your job and the people you work with maybe you should just bite the bullet and make the payment from your paychecks...

Best of luck.
Don't do that again!!!

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