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article imagePassengers sue Air Canada after sleepy pilot plunges plane

By Arthur Weinreb     May 8, 2012 in Travel
Toronto - The class action lawsuit is claiming $20 million in damages after 16 people were injured when a trans-Atlantic flight went into a steep dive. It is also alleged that the airline misled all the passengers as to the cause of the sudden descent.
The lawsuit was filed yesterday by the law firm of Thomson, Rogers and was brought on behalf of 95 of the plane's 103 passengers. Darcy Merkur, a lawyer with the firm, was quoted by CBC as saying, The passengers taking part in the action, feel completely manipulated, completely lied to and they are pissed off; they want a corporation like Air Canada to be accountable for misleading them.
On Jan. 13, 2011, Flight AC878 left Pearson International Airport in Toronto, bound for Zurich. While over the Atlantic the aircraft went into a steep dive, quickly dropping 120 meters or approximately 395 feet. Sixteen people; 14 passengers and two crew members who were not wearing seat belts, sustained injuries. Seven passengers were taken to hospital after the plane landed in Zurich, about three hours later.
Air Canada told the passengers that the plane's steep dive was caused by unexpected turbulence.
As is mandated by law, an investigation was carried out by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB). In the agency's report, released last month, the cause of the steep drop was found to have been due to pilot error, not sudden turbulence.
The captain was in control of the plane while the first officer was taking a nap. The TSB report, part of which was reproduced in the Toronto Sun, stated, The captain made a position report, causing the first officer to wake up. At roughly the same time, another aircraft was approaching from the opposite direction a thousand feet below. The captain, who was the pilot in control of the aircraft, had visual contact with the oncoming aircraft. Under the effects of significant sleep inertia—when performance and situational awareness are degraded immediately after waking up—the first officer perceived the oncoming aircraft as being on a collision course and began a descent to avoid it.
After the descent began, the captain retook control of the plane and the flight continued to Switzerland.
To add to the anger of the passengers, many of them signed waivers with Air Canada under the mistaken belief that the plane's drop was due to unexpected turbulence and not pilot error.
Linda Jaragina-Shahoo, who was pregnant at the time, settled with the airline for $3,500 that covered the time she missed from work and medical expenses. She is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, I have been lied to for 15 months by this airline. Obviously I would not have settled for the amount they offered me had I known it was a human error rather than just a course of nature.
The lawsuit has not yet been certified as a class action and the allegations in the statement of claim have not been proven in court.
More about Air canada, Class action lawsuit, Pilot error, thompson rogers, transportation safety board of canada
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