The family of a decorated pilot who died in a 2011 crash at Fort Benning has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging the AH-6M Little Bird helicopter was unsafe.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Steven B. Redd, 37, was in control of the helicopter Aug. 8, 2011, when he and Capt. John D. Hortman, 30, died during a training exercise with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Redd and Hortman were assigned to the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Ky.
The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman of Los Angeles filed the lawsuit Monday in Connecticut for plaintiffs Adalia Lee Redd, the pilot’s wife, and his three children, Jazlyn, Dezaray and Tristyn Redd. Defendants include the Goodrich Corporation; Goodrich Pump and Engine Control Systems Inc; Rolls-Royce North America Inc.; Allison Engine Company Inc; Boeing Company and MD Helicopters Inc.
The suit was filed in Connecticut because each of the defendants is authorized to do business in the state. Goodrich Corporation was identified in the lawsuit as the designer, manufacturer, tester, seller, supplier and systems integrator of a key part that failed on the helicopter, the Fully Automated Digital Electronic Control. The FADEC is a digital computer that controls fuel to the Model 250 turbine engine on the helicopter.
During operation, the computer senses the engine parameters and delivers fuel to the engine according to its programming. Failure of the computer results in fuel delivery failure, which directly effects the engine power, control and performance of the aircraft.
Timothy Loranger, an attorney for Baum, Hedlund, said soldiers put their lives on the line everyday and deserve equipment that meets the highest standards of safety and reliability. “Selling aircraft and other equipment to the government knowing it to be defective and dangerous is a serious breach of the public trust and leads directly to senseless tragedy and loss of life,” said Loranger, a Marine veteran.
No one was available at the Goodrich Corporation to comment on the case. A spokesman said the company was acquired by United Technologies Corporation a year ago.
One of the goals in the lawsuit is to make the public aware of the problem. “People in the military are in danger everyday,” Loranger said. “There is no reason that danger should be enhanced by giving them defective equipment.”
Redd’s suit is the second one filed in connection with the crash. The family of Hortman filed a suit last year in Connecticut, Loranger said.
“We will coordinate the cases so they will probably go together,” he said. “We will work together with the other law firm handling the case.”
After the crash, court documents state that Redd was conscious and responsive to commands from Army medics. He died after he was evacuated from the scene.
A post-crash investigation revealed the FADEC on the Little Bird failed to low fixed-fuel setting, which affected the RPM of the helicopter’s rotors and caused a loss in altitude.
The report also showed that the pilots performed the prescribed emergency procedures, but the manual backup to the FADEC was neither effective in controlling the helicopter nor its badly malfunctioning engine.
The defendants knew of the problem in 2007, four years before the crash, the lawsuit stated. “The defendants knew, by virtue of multiple previous failures of the AH-6M Little Bird helicopter, its engine, FADEC and other components, that the helicopter was unreasonably dangerous and prone to failure yet the defendants knowingly concealed this information from the government and specifically from the Army,” the suit states.
A jury trial is sought to decide the lawsuit. The family is seeking a judgment for punitive damages, pain and suffering, cost of the suit and any other relief the court may deem just and proper.