American Air Cites Controller Error

Friday, August 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) — American Airlines, stung by an $11 million jury award in its fatal Arkansas crash, has renewed efforts to blame an air traffic controller for passengers' deaths.

Lawyers for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline, with separate filings in Little Rock and Dallas, contend that if controller Kenneth Kaylor had performed his job correctly, Flight 1420 would have been turned away from Little Rock National Airport during the June 1, 1999, thunderstorm.

Eleven people died and more than 80 were injured when the jet crashed during landing.

The airline claims the controller failed to give the pilots accurate information about the weather, runway condition and the McDonnell Douglas MD-82's approach.

Kaylor has granted no interviews since the crash.

The legal maneuvering came as a jury Thursday ordered American to pay $11 million to an an aspiring opera singer for injuries she suffered in the crash.

The lawsuit brought by Kristin Maddox was the first case dealing with the crash to go to trial. In it, Maddox alleged the airline was negligent for allowing the plane to land in bad weather.

She had sought $35 million, saying damage to her voice box and hands ruined her dream of having a professional music career. American suggested an award of $3.6 million.

``This isn't over for the survivors for Flight 1420. This will never be over,'' said Maddox, 23. ``I live with it every night in my dreams.''

An American Airlines statement said the company had no plans to appeal at this time. Maddox's attorneys said an decision on whether to appeal was pending.

Several other lawsuits related to the crash have been settled out of court, and others await trial.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not issued its final report on the cause of the crash. Among factors being considered are the poor weather, and whether the plane's braking mechanisms worked as they were supposed to after the plane touched down.

American's legal moves to include Kaylor in Texas and Arkansas lawsuits over the crash have angered current and former traffic controllers who say it may cause a backlash from those with the ability to disrupt American's flight schedules.

But Doug Murphy, air traffic division manager for the Federal Aviation Administration's Southwest Region, said officials ``won't tolerate punitive action against the airline.''