Perry Family Estate files lawsuit against FAA over fatal 2016 plane crash

Published 11:22 am Saturday, July 27, 2019

The estate of Dr. Michael Perry and Kimberly Perry has filed a lawsuit alleging that, in the plane crash that killed the couple, federal air traffic controllers gave late and false information to the pilot, which led to the accident that killed all six people on board.

The six were killed Aug. 14, 2016, when their small airplane lost power over Alabama as the three couples were en route to Oxford after a dental convention in Orlando, Fla.

Husband and wife dentists Jason and Lea Farese, along with dentist Michael Perry and his wife Kimberly Perry and dentist Austin Poole and his wife, Angie Poole, were all killed when the Fareses’ plane crashed just short of the Tuscaloosa, Ala., airport.

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The Perry estate filed the lawsuit, alleging that pilot Jason Farese was given delayed and incorrect information by air traffic controllers when the airplane began to have problems.

According to the report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board on May 10, 2018, pilot error and a lack of training in emergency procedures with the airplane, a Piper PA-31 Navajo, contributed to the crash.

The NTSB report stated there was a total loss of power in both engines “due to fuel starvation as a result of the pilot’s mismanagement of the fuel and his subsequent failure to follow the emergency checklist.”

The Perry family lawsuit, however, alleges that when pilot Farese alerted air traffic control that he was in trouble, and sought to be diverted to the nearest airport, air traffic controllers incorrectly told Farese he was 9 miles closer to the Tuscaloosa airport than he actually was.

“In one of the most egregious errors, at 1608:16 UTC, after the pilot advised (air traffic controllers) of manifold pressure loss, (the controller) told the pilot, ‘I do have an airport over at your 3 o’clock about 8 miles ah Tuscaloosa is dead ahead say uh 20 miles.’ In reality, the Tuscaloosa
airport was 29.13 miles – a distance error of over 45 percent,” the lawsuit states. “Had (air traffic control) relayed the proper distance information, the pilot may well have elected to divert to a closer airport considering his building loss of power.”

Ultimately, the airplane crashed into the ground, approximately 550 yards short of the Tuscaloosa runway.

The lawsuit said the 9-mile error was “catastrophic.”

“Specifically, there were numerous instances from the time the pilot reported losing a fuel pump and requested to land at another airport that a reasonable controller would have correctly identified the closest airport(s) and/or landing locations based on the altitude and airspeed of the Aircraft,” the lawsuit reads.

Further, the lawsuit claims the air traffic controllers did not treat the incident as an emergency soon enough, immediately instructing Farese to maintain his altitude, which may have ultimately curtailed his ability to glide the powerless airplane to the runway, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks $24 million that would go to the couple’s three children.

To download a copy of the lawsuit, click here.