DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The father of a student pilot who died when his plane crashed during his commercial pilot lesson in Florida is suing Piper Aircraft.
Navy veteran Zack Capra, 25, and Federal Aviation Administration pilot examiner John S. Azma were killed April 4, 2018, when the left wing came off the Piper PA-28 they were flying west of Daytona Beach International Airport.
According to reports, federal investigators listed metal fatigue as the cause of the wing falling off the aircraft.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Capra was a student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which has since stopped flying Piper PA-28s. A spokesperson tells News 6 students are no longer required to train on them.
Capra's father, John Charles Capra, said in the wrongful death lawsuit that the "horror and fear of impending death for pilots of an in-flight breakup of their aircraft cannot be overstated." He called it a "pilot's worst nightmare come true."
According to the lawsuit, Capra's attorney is claiming the company knew of structural failures in the Piper PA-28 aircraft since at least 1987 after another plane with a similar flight history crashed and the pilot died.
The suit states after the 1987 crash, the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive that required extensive inspection of the wings. The suit claims Piper lobbied the FAA to have the order withdrawn.
The lawsuit states that made "the unilateral decision to risk the lives of every pilot and aircraft owner."
The suit also claims Piper knew for years before the 1987 crash that "more than a hundred PA-28 aircraft had suffered in-flight structural failures resulting in the loss of life of hundreds of occupants," the lawsuit states.
Capra's attorney claims Piper no longer sends notices to pilots or owners requiring more serious inspections of the aircraft.
According to the lawsuit, another plane at Embry Riddle was inspected after the fatal crash and it had a similar crack in the wing.
Piper did not immediately respond to questions about the lawsuit, which can be read in the link above.
Update: Six days after News 6 published this story Piper Aircraft, Inc. sent the following statement:
The accident, which is the subject of the present lawsuit, is still be investigated by the NTSB, as such, Piper is unable to comment on the pending investigation and litigation. However, it is important to note that Piper’s #1 priority has been and always will be safety, whether that be of our customers, employees, pilots, the flying public, or airport communities around the world. Period.
Since the original launch of the PA-28 in 1961, Piper Aircraft has produced nearly 40,000 PA28 aircraft of all models. These aircraft have amassed 186 million flight hours - providing safe and efficient personal/business transportation and pilot training. Literally, hundreds of thousands of pilots have learned to fly in Piper PA28 aircraft since the first aircraft was produced 58 years ago. With this in mind, we stand by the time tested design and safety of these products.