Lawyer Monthly - April 2022

What initially drewyou to aviation, andwhen did you decide to apply your knowledge as an expert witness? I was brought up at Marlow in the Thames Valley and spent many hours watching the jets flying overhead on the approach into Heathrow. I often wondered what it would be like to be in one of those jet cockpits. My next-door neighbour was a Captain at BEA, one of the airlines which later merged to become British Airways. I am sure you can imagine the thrill I experienced when he invited me to Heathrow to fly a BEA Trident simulator – one of those very same jets. I was hooked! I had also been an Air Cadet since the age of 12 and was lucky enough to have been awarded a Flying Scholarship – 30 flying hours, free of charge, at a civil flight school learning how to fly. So now I was doubly hooked! This led into a commercial flying career through sponsored training with British Airways. On graduating in 1977, there were few flying posts available. I was fortunate in joining one of the few UK airlines which survived the ups and downs of the last 40 years, and still exists to this day. In 2013 I joined an aviation expert witness company as a director. The wide variety of cases was always interesting, usually quite different and never identical. Every case produced a new challenge. Again, I was hooked! I undertook training courses with the Expert Witness Institute and elsewhere, and in 2017 went through their Certification Programme. I was pleased to become the first aviation expert witness to be certified. I am still closely associated with the EWI, and in 2020 was elected as a Governor of the Institute. Aside fromyour work as an expert witness, inwhat areas do you apply your specialised knowledge in aviation? Following retirement from commercial flying, I now work as a training pilot on Boeing 787 aircraft simulators, teaching and examining new and experienced pilots. I also run courses for experienced pilots who would like to become training pilots. These courses, approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, are run in the classroom and the simulator. What sorts of legal cases require your input as an aviation expert? The Axten team have worked on a wide variety of aviation cases, both here in the UK and abroad. Accidents and incidents affecting light aircraft, helicopters and airliners are the most common cases. The team has also worked on engineering and maintenance cases, aircraft leasing 85 APR 2022 | WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM EXPERT WITNESS disputes, airfield planning issues and ‘lost career’ quantum cases. One of the risks facing pilots is that their well-paid livelihood can be lost at a stroke. This could be due to a road traffic accident or to medical negligence, where liability is admitted by the other party’s insurer and the injury suffered results in a loss of the all-important medical certificate. This in turn leads to the loss of their pilot’s licence. A pilot then loses their generous basic salary together with myriad complex benefits that may include flight duty pay, sector pay, allowances, private health care, company pension contributions, bonus payments, share scheme options, travel benefits inter alia. Possible lost promotion prospects also need to be evaluated. When would the pilot have progressed to a Captaincy? Would they have become a training pilot or even an airline manager? Claims are offset by any earnings which might accrue from alternative employment, but lifetime earnings will be greatly reduced. This all needs to be carefully assessed by an expert who understands all the complexities. I was instructed recently on a pilot’s loss of career case which led to a claim of over £5 million. Pilots are part of a crew team when onboard an aircraft – usually close-knit but not always so. I have been instructed in a case where an allegation of negligence was made against the pilots by a cabin crew member due to a hard landing that resulted in injury. The claimants alleged that the pilots did not follow the airline’s standard operating procedures on the approach to landing, and therefore failed to meet the professional standards required. Aircraft and helicopter accidents and incidents often focus similarly on the actions of the pilots. The Axten team have been involved with a number of cases on behalf of claimants and defendants arising from these types of events. In a recent case my report identified that the light aircraft pilot involved had not correctly followed the checklist in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook. As a One of the risks facing pilots is that their well-paid livelihood can be lost at a stroke.

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