Instructor, pilot awarded $53M in Cessna 150 crash!


Instructor, pilot awarded $53M in Volusia crash
Ludmilla Lelis

The Orlando Sentinel

July 27, 2007

Original The Orlando Sentinel article: Instructor, pilot awarded $53M in Volusia crash
A flight instructor and a former student pilot won a $53 million jury award against two manufacturers blamed for a 1999 airplane crash that seriously injured the men.

The Volusia jury decided the companies were liable for the Ormond Beach crash of a Cessna 150 because they knew about defects in the carburetor that could cause engine failure, said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Arthur Wolk.

‘It’s recognition by this jury that it’s wrong for an aircraft-component manufacturer to put a component on a plane that they know is likely to cause serious injury or death,’ Wolk said.

‘Airplane crashes don’t result in minor injuries, so this is a life-or-death issue that they did not appropriately address, and two men are maimed for life because of that,’ he said.

In addition, the jury decided the carburetor manufacturer, Precision Airmotive Corp. of Marysville, Wash., should pay an additional $1.5 million in punitive damages because the defect had been reported numerous times during the course of 40 years but wasn’t fixed.

Defense attorneys couldn’t be reached after the verdicts were announced.

The verdicts arrived just a few days after the eight-year anniversary of the plane crash that seriously injured flight instructor Nicholas Grace and student pilot Mark Godfrey.

The men were flying a Cessna 150 on the night of July 24, 1999, when the engine failed, causing the plane to crash nose-first near the Ormond Beach airport. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board determined that an exhaust valve got stuck, which caused a loss in engine power, according to a federal accident database.

Wolk said the evidence showed the carburetor tended to run very rich, causing the engine to become overloaded with fuel, which then can cause the valves to stick.

The crash left both men with extensive injuries, including facial fractures and brain injuries. According to the verdict, Grace was awarded $32 million, while Godfrey was awarded $21 million. The carburetor manufacturer must pay 70 percent of the verdict, while the engine manufacturer, Teledyne Technologies Inc., is 30 percent liable.

The Cessna 150 plane involved in the 1999 crash is a different model from the Cessna 310R that recently crashed in a Sanford neighborhood. A Cessna spokesman said the 310R model is a twin-engine, high-performance plane, while the 150 model is a single-engine, two-seater plane used for training purposes.

‘It’s like likening a Ford SUV crash to the problems the Pinto had,’ Doug Oliver said Thursday. ‘They’re both Ford cars, but you’re talking about two completely different products and completely different circumstances.’

Denise-Marie Balona of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at 386-253-0964 or


Well no it didn’t, but I wouldn’t expect a civil jury to understand that after listening to some slick lawyering.



Doesn’t sound like slick lawyering to me.

The engine failed, which was part of a chain of events causing the plane to crash. Obvious some substance to proving it or they wouldn’t have gotten the verdict they did.

Nothing in the sentence you are nit picking says the engine was the sole cause of the crash.

Now if the sentence said “the engine failed, caused the plane to crash nose first…” you would have every right to nitpick.



Yes I would, but only because such a sentence would be grammatically incorrect.

…the engine failed, causing the plane to crash nose-first” implies a direct cause and effect without any other factors. Such as the pilots’ inability to perform a power-off approach and landing; which I submit happens every day somewhere.

Anyway I expect the judge to reduce the damages to something a bit more reasonable, waaaaay less than $53M. Still gonna bump up the insurance for the rest of us though :imp:


Again, a nit pick, implying and statements are two different things. One can imply to the cows come home, implies don’t hold up in court.

The sentence is a grammatically correct STATEMENT.

There is nothing in that sentence saying the engine was the SOLE cause of causing the plane crashing nose first.

The word causing is used as a part of chain of events (implying) which allows the reader to decide what may or may not be the cause. You are correct in that the average John Doe won’t be able to read past the implication, but they also won’t know the pilot had emergency options either.

The word caused would be the sole reason for the crash which would leave no descretion to the reader in deciding the cause of the crash.

If this was the case, the I get the song in my head “It’s raining planes hallalula” I don’t think EMERGENCY power off approach to landings happens everyday.

Any English majors in here??? :smiley: :smiley:



Worldwide ? I’ll bet it’s close.

Certainly no more absurd than the idea that Cessna 150/152s are dropping like flies because their carburettors are “dangerous” and the manufacturer is “negligent”. I think (even) the FAA might have noticed that happening.

These ludicrous settlements dam’ near killed off the GA industry back in the 1980’s, all the while the lawyers got fatter and fatter. (Apologies if you happen to be one - on second thought; no apologies :wink: )

When you get in an airplane you take some kind of risk, statistically a small one, but a risk none the less. Engines quit. There’s a large amount of luck involved in where you are if it happens, but there is also an expectation of some pilotage being required.

The engine quitting did NOT cause this airplane to crash, although it did initiate the sequence leading to the crash. Is that clearer ?


I’d love to see you come up with stats coming close to a engine failure a day. I don’t see it, but I don’t have anything to back up what I am saying either.

The way you wrote the above, I absolutely agree.

But the original sentence you nit picked on is grammatically and journalistically correct.

Just replace initiate with causing and you come up with the same thing I have been saying along. I.E using your sentence.

The engine quitting did not cause this airplane to crash but causing the sequence leading to the crash. (not exactly grammatically correct, but hopefully you get my point).

How the reader interprets “causing” may be incorrect, but the original sentence is correct. There is nothing in the original sentence that says the engine caused the plane crash only that it failed, causing the plane to crash.

Causing and cause are two different beasts.

Just want to be clear that what you said originally was not correct.

(NOT an attorney)


Is this Cessna’s problem??? I haven’t checked any of the data bases, as to the year of the a/c or to the number of accidents caused by this…Wouldn’t this be a problem with the A&P, the IP, or what ever shop did the overhaul? I mean C150’s hadn’t been built for SEVERAL years prior to this accident, what 1974ish.


No, Cessna was not named as a defendant.

The NTSB report is here.

If it’s the same N19222 as currently (sort of) registered, it was built in 1972.

Gonna take a lot to convince me this was a sound judgement :unamused:


I feel better about that at least. Can’t believe they didn’t go after the deep pockets.


I don’t think they COULD go after Cessna. Remember, it was a liability statute of limitations that got Cessna back into the single engine game. I believe after 18 years , the aircraft manufacturer is no longer liable.


guys - don’t argue over the language in the article - it was written by a journalist. In my college, journalism was the last refuge of those who can’t read [English majors], can’t think [pre-med and pre law], can’t do math [Econ and Business and Engineerings] and generally can’t do anything but needed to get a degree.

The way to avoid problems is if you are local and there is an accident - call the reporter up and offer to be a resource to them on aviation matters - take them up for a ride. Then while they may still screw it up writing the story for non-pilots, they’ll have no excuse.