A Quest Aircraft Company employee recently died in a plane crash near Grants Pass, Oregon. This crash happened on October 8th, the day before Thanksgiving. The co-pilot ejected and was taken to a nearby hospital, but later died of asphyxiation (due to being next to the aircraft). The passenger on the ground contacted the pilot and the air traffic controller, and the co-pilot made a statement to them, stating that he could not remember the exact details of the conversations he had with the passenger, but that he could swear that he heard the co-pilots tell the passenger “You’ll never make it home”.

Quest Aircraft Lawsuit

This affidavit was a critical piece of evidence in the Aircraft lawsuit that ultimately ended up in court. The main point of contention was whether or not the co-pilot’s statements could be considered a privileged communication. Here is the crux of the question: can an employer use a mere verbal declaration by an employee to prevent a lawsuit from being filed?

The plain wording of the First Amendment states that Congress has the power ‘to regulate commerce among the States’, but it does not give employers the right to bar a passenger from flying due to fear of litigation.

The airline industry already has extensive guidelines in place for how they deal with pilots and flight crew members who have been involved in a crash. Pilots must undergo an exhaustive background check and must undergo a psychological evaluation in order to be hired. Private pilot training also requires that he or she has passed a medical exam that proves he or she is in good health.

Quest Aircraft was one of the many companies that employ pilots and air traffic controllers.

They were clearly within their rights to say “You’ll never make it home” if the co-pilot was telling the truth. If the aircraft was not headed towards Oregon and there were no emergency lights on the airplane, the co-pilot was within their rights to advise them that the aircraft was in no immediate danger. In short, the co-pilot’s honest information about the weather conditions on the ground was deemed relevant by the airlines and Quest Aircraft was ruled in a factual dispute, not libel.

The airlines’ lawyers claim that private pilots have the right to ignore a weather warning sign because they are not federal employees and therefore have no legal protection under the National Transportation Safety Administration’s (NTSB) Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

However, the judge in the Quest Aircraft lawsuit found otherwise. He noted that the private pilot’s testimony about visibility conditions was relevant because it proved that he had a reasonable knowledge of what the condition was prior to taking-off. Furthermore, the judge found that Quest was not defrauded in any way as the testimony was consistent with what a normal private pilot would observe. Ultimately, the Airlines lost the case.

When looking at the facts of the lawsuit, it seems clear that Quest Aircraft was right in the situation it was placed in by the Airlines. A private pilot has the right to choose how to fly a plane. He does not have to follow any set guidelines or regulations that a set of government workers created for the benefit of a corporation. If the lawsuit is lost this will set a precedent for future cases where a private pilot feels he has been defrauded or his flight was misrepresented.

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