Family Blames Business Jet Maker for Fatal Crash

     (CN) – The family of late Philadelphia Inquirer co-owner Lewis Katz claims in court that the maker of the business jet in which he died in a fiery crash knew the plane had a defect and failed to warn pilots of it.
     Katz, a lawyer and businessman, made millions in parking lots, billboards, radio and sports, and then became a major philanthropist.
     He was a founding partner of the law firm Katz, Ettin & Levine in Cherry Hill, N.J., a former owner of Kinney Parking Systems once the largest parking company in New York City and the former chairman of Interstate Outdoor Advertising, one of the largest regional outdoor-advertising firms in the country.
     He also once held ownership stakes in the New Jersey Nets basketball team and the New Jersey Devils hockey franchise.
     His philanthropy, carried out by the Katz Foundation, supported a wide array of charitable, educational and medical causes.
     Katz and six others were killed on May 31, 2014, as they tried to fly home in his $30 million Gulfstream jet following a fundraiser at historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Massachusetts home.
     Nearly a year later, the National Transportation Safety Board released hundreds of pages of documents related to the flight’s abortive takeoff from Laurence G. Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts and the fiery crash that ensued.
     According to cockpit transcripts, the jet was accelerating down the runway when the pilots realized the elevators and rudder were locked.
     “Lock is on,” the pilot said several times.
     “I can’t stop it,” he said.
     His last words were “oh no no.”
     After failing to take off, the jet continued past the safety area at the end of the runway, lost its landing gear, collided with several lights and antenna, and finally, smashed through a security fence before coming to rest in a ravine.
     Katz’s family filed a wrongful death suit against multiple defendants in the Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts, but the defendants have indicated they will attempt to have the action dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
     Despite believing such a motion would fail, plaintiffs Drew Katz and Melissa Silver, filed a protective action in Delaware Superior Court.
     They also filed a second wrongful death suit in the Superior Court of Chatham County, Georgia, because Gulfstream’s headquarters are located there.
     In their May 27 complaint, Katz and Silver say that an investigation after the crash revealed a defect in the aircraft’s gust lock system and interlock mechanism, “which were certified as current and airworthy and incorporated into the Subject Aircraft by Gulfstream.”
     A gust lock on an aircraft is a mechanism that locks control surfaces, like rudders and flaps in place while the aircraft is parked on the ground and non-operational.
     True to their name, gust locks are designed to prevent a wind from causing unexpected movements of the control surfaces and their linked controls inside the aircraft.
     While they concede the pilots failed to disengage the gust lock, they contend Gulfstream “never warned the Pilots, either through Gulfstream flight manuals or through a warning system in the Subject Aircraft itself, that the illuminated rudder torque limiter light mean that the gust lock was engaged.
     “No less significantly,” Katz and Silver say, “Gulfstream never warned the Pilots, either through the Gulfstream flight manuals or through a warning system in the Subject Aircraft itself, that they should abort the takeoff as a result of the illuminated rudder torque limiter light.”
     Steve Marks, managing partner of Potdhurst Orseck in Miami, represents the Katz family and estate.
     Marks told Courthouse News, “Gulfstream knew the lock system was not fit for a G4 and it was pulled from the market before this tragedy. It’s hard to imagine a products case where an engineer didn’t call into question lack of testing. They did not test on this particular part and they did not inspect it to see if it work on a G4.”
     A “G4” is a Gulfstream IV, a twin-engine jet used primarily for private and business use.
     Marks continued, “[Lewis Katz] was remarkable man who was not only successful in business, but also gave back in an extremely generous way to the community and was a family man. He set an example for so many and reached so many people through his charitable work and through his businesses. The loss is unimaginable for the people who knew him.”
     Gulfstream’s Vice President of Communications, Steve Cass, told Courthouse News that the company never comments on pending litigation.

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