March 21, 2012 Articles

Criminalizing Aviation: Placing Blame Before Safety

By Judith R. Nemsick and Sarah Gogal Passeri

Criminal investigations and prosecutions of parties involved in major air disasters continue unabated on a global scale. In the past five years alone, criminal proceedings have been commenced to address commercial aviation accidents in Brazil, France, Greece, Indonesia, Spain, and Turkey. The investigations relate to the crash of TAM Airlines Flight 3054 at Sao Paolo Congonhas Airport on July 17, 2007; the Air France Flight 447 accident over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009; the crash of Helios Airways Flight 522 near Athens on August 15, 2005; the Garuda Indonesia Airways Flight 200 accident at Yogyakarta Airport on March 7, 2007; the Spanair Flight 5022 accident at Madrid Barajas Airport on August 20, 2008; and the Atlasjet Flight 4203 accident near Isparta, Turkey, on November 30, 2007.

While there have been criminal investigations in the aviation industry for decades, the recent proliferation of such investigations is concerning. Indeed, one study indicates that there were only 27 criminal prosecutions stemming from airline or business jet accidents worldwide from 1956 to 1999 (a 43-year period), compared to at least 28 during the period from 2000 to 2009. Andreas Mateou & Sofia Michaelides-Mateou, Flying in the Face of Criminalization 161 (2010). In recent years, criminal authorities have been casting a wider net and pressing charges against not only airlines, manufacturers, and their frontline employees, but also management, engineers, and designers. Air traffic controllers, regulatory officials, and maintenance providers have also been targets of these investigations.

The intersection between civil accident investigations and criminal investigations and the tension between their respective goals of preventing future accidents and assessing blame continues to pervade the airline industry. The prosecution of certain activities, including terrorism, sabotage, and intentional misconduct, is indisputably necessary and serves to achieve both goals. Efforts to criminalize what amounts to ordinary negligence, however, must be recognized as having unintended and, indeed, potentially detrimental effects. The United States realizes these damaging effects and notably prioritizes the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) technical investigation and restricts the use of reports and information outside of this investigation. Efforts in other countries, however, are inconsistent and have not necessarily been as successful. In several foreign jurisdictions, criminal investigators continue to interfere with the civil aviation authority’s technical investigation and to prosecute corporations and individuals for conduct amounting to negligence.

The existence of parallel criminal proceedings also may impact civil lawsuits brought by victims’ families. In certain countries, the local law enforcement authorities may take custody of evidence before the civil aviation authority has had a chance to evaluate it. This is often the case in countries where the laws allow for parallel investigations and grant priority to the judicial criminal authority. Defense counsel and counsel for the victims’ families need to be aware of the tensions that can arise as a result of criminal investigations and how such proceedings may impact their representation of parties to civil actions arising from an aviation accident.

Global Consensus: Criminal Investigations Impede Airline Safety
Numerous agencies and industry groups have long recognized the negative effect that criminal investigations have on technical investigations and the goal of improving air safety. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency formed at the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation in Chicago, sets international safety standards and policies for commercial aviation, including the protocol for conducting an accident investigation. This protocol, commonly referred to as ICAO Annex 13 and titled Aviation Accident and Incident Investigations, states:



The sole objective of the investigation of an accident or incident shall be the prevention of accidents and incidents. It is not the purpose of this activity to apportion blame or liability.



Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed at Chicago on December 7, 1944, Annex 13, § 3.1, Objective of the Investigation.

The state of occurrence, in other words, the nation on whose territory an accident or incident occurs, is charged with conducting the official technical investigation and must “take all reasonable measures to protect the evidence and to maintain safe custody of the aircraft and its contents” during the course of the investigation. Id. at § 3.2. ICAO Annex 13 recognizes that if it becomes known or suspected that an unlawful act caused the accident, the investigator in charge must immediately initiate action to ensure that aviation security authorities of the states concerned are informed. Id. at § 5.11.

ICAO Annex 13 imposes specific rules and guidelines regarding the disclosure of accident-investigation materials and data collected under programs to improve safety. For example, Section 5.12, Non-Disclosure of Records, provides that states should not disclose records from the investigation “unless the appropriate authority for the administration of justice in that State determines that their disclosure outweighs the adverse domestic and international impact such action may have on that or any future investigations.” Additionally, accredited representatives and their advisers “shall not divulge information on the progress and the findings of the investigation without the express consent of the State conducting the investigation.” Id. at § 5.26.

Significantly, section 5.12 recognizes that information “could be utilized inappropriately for subsequent disciplinary, civil, administrative, and criminal proceedings. If such information is distributed, it may, in the future, no longer be openly disclosed to investigators. Lack of access to such information would impede the investigation process and seriously affect flight safety.” Annex 13, § 5.12, note 1 (emphasis added).

Attachment E to Annex 13, titled Legal Guidance for the Protection of Information from Safety Data Collection and Processing Systems, sets forth recommendations for member states regarding disclosure of investigative information and data collection. For example, national laws and regulations should provide specific measures of protection to maintain the confidentiality of these materials and limit public access. Attachment E recognizes exceptions to nondisclosure, including where there is evidence or the circumstances indicate that the accident was caused by intentional conduct, recklessness, gross negligence, or willful misconduct, or where an appropriate authority determines that release of the information is necessary for the administration of justice. Attachment E, however, serves only as a legal guidance and is not binding on member states. See In re Air Crash at Lexington, Ky., Aug. 27, 2006, 2008 WL 170528, *6–7 (E.D. Ky. Jan. 17, 2008).

ICAO, like many other air-safety organizations, has advocated for a “just culture” in the aviation industry—one that does not punish individuals for negligent acts and limits criminal prosecutions to cases of sabotage, intentional misconduct, or gross recklessness. See David Learmont, “ICAO Wants to Make ‘Just Culture’ Safety Reporting and Investigation Global,” Flight International (Jan. 8, 2008). In addition, ICAO has established a task force to advocate for greater protection of information and data voluntarily reported under various safety programs. See Andy Pasztor & Daniel Michaels, “Prosecutions Vex Aviation Industry,” Wall Street Journal (Mar. 21, 2011).

In the United States, the NTSB, the agency charged with transportation accident investigations, likewise supports a “just culture” in the industry and encourages a strong overall safety culture. See Remarks of Robert Sumwalt, Member, NTSB, Developing a Safety Culture: The Role of Leadership, FAA Air Traffic Organization Leadership Summit, Washington, D.C. (Aug. 19, 2008). Over a decade ago, the NTSB chairman testified before Congress about how NTSB investigators were “stymied by the prospect of criminal prosecutions” during their investigation of the 1999 pipeline rupture and fire in Bellingham, Washington. See Testimony of Jim Hall, Chairman, NTSB (Oct. 27, 1999). For fear of prosecution, many witnesses would not speak to the authorities regarding the incident. During a 2000 congressional hearing on criminalization, experts proposed protections for safety-related information provided to the NTSB. See Hearing Regarding the Trend Toward Criminalizing Aviation Accidents Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation (testimony of Capt. Paul McCarthy, Executive Air Safety Chairman, Airline Pilots Ass’n) (July 27, 2000).

In October 2006, various international air and space organizations located in Europe and the United States issued a Joint Resolution Regarding Criminalization in Aviation Accidents [PDF] declaring that the “paramount consideration” of the official investigation should be to determine the probable cause and contributing factors, not to criminally punish flight crews, maintenance employees, airline and manufacturer management and executives, regulatory officials, or air traffic controllers. The resolution was issued in response to several criminal investigations in the industry, including the detention of two business jet pilots in Brazil following a mid-air collision. The resolution was executed by the Flight Safety Foundation, the Académie Nationale de l’Air et de l’Espace, the Royal Aeronautical Society, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, the European Regions Airline Association, the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers’ Associations, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association, and the International Society of Aviation Safety Investigators. The National Business Aviation Association and the International Business Aviation Council have also endorsed the resolution. See David Esler, “Flight Risk: The Threat of Criminalization,” Aviation Week (Mar. 10, 2009).

The resolution encourages states to “exercise greater restraint” and “adopt stricter guidelines” before law enforcement officials bring criminal investigations or prosecutions in the wake of an air disaster and urges them to instead pursue stronger regulatory oversight and enforcement. It also urges states to safeguard the official accident investigation process, to prevent premature disclosure of the probable cause/contributing factor conclusions, and to prohibit their use in any civil or criminal proceedings. It warns that the “use of relatively untrained and inexperienced technical ‘experts’” by prosecutors can result in “flawed technical analyses” and interfere with the official accident investigation.

U.S. Criminal Investigations
Criminal investigations of aviation accidents in the United States are much less prevalent than elsewhere and often do not result in criminal charges. Even when a parallel criminal investigation ensues in the United States, the NTSB’s civil investigation generally takes priority. See 49 U.S.C. § 1131(a)(2)(A)(B); 49 C.F.R. § 831.5. Criminal charges are also principally reserved for intentional conduct, such as the falsification of maintenance records or other aircraft documents.

For instance, after ValuJet Flight 562 erupted into flames shortly after takeoff and crashed in the Florida Everglades on May 11, 1996, federal authorities charged the aircraft maintenance company, SabreTech, and its employees for knowingly and willfully falsifying maintenance records, failing to comply with hazardous-material regulations, recklessness, and other crimes. See U.S. v. SabreTech, Inc., et al., No.1:99-cr-00491, D.E. No. 1 (Indictment). Those charged included the company’s vice president of maintenance and two mechanics.

In 1999, all of the individuals were acquitted by the federal district court. See U.S. v. SabreTech, Inc., 271 F.3d 1018, 1021 (11th Cir. 2001). However, SabreTech was found guilty of nine counts of willfully and recklessly causing the transportation of oxygen generators in violation of the Federal Aviation Act (FAA) and willfully failing to train its employees in accordance with hazardous materials regulations. In 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ultimately vacated these convictions, with the exception of the willful failure to train employees. 271 F.3d at 1025. In 2000, Florida state prosecutors also charged SabreTech with 110 counts of third-degree murder and 110 counts of manslaughter, one count for each passenger. These charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement that required SabreTech’s parent corporation to pay $500,000 to organizations that promote aviation safety. See “Florida to Drop ValuJet Murder Counts vs. SabreTech,” Houston Chronicle (Oct. 26, 2001).

Criminal charges were also brought following the February 2005 crash of a corporate jet operated by a private charter company, Platinum Jet, into a building on takeoff from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilot’s failure to ensure the proper weight and balance, which resulted in a center of gravity that was well forward of the take-off limits and prevented the aircraft from fully rotating. See NTSB, Accident Report on Runway Overrun and Collision Platinum Jet Management, LLC Bombardier Challenger CL-600-1A11, N370V, Teterboro, New Jersey, Feb. 5, 2005 (Oct. 31, 2006). Also cited as contributing factors were Platinum Jet’s failure to obtain FAA certification for part 135 operations, failure to use qualified pilots (the captain of the accident aircraft was not certified to operate part 135 flights), and faulty record keeping.

Charges were brought against several Platinum Jet employees, including conspiracy among pilots and company officials to regularly overload planes, falsify flight documents, and violate federal safety regulations in a scheme to maximize profit. See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Captain of Jet That Crashed at Teterboro in 2005 Charged in Superseding Indictment (Nov. 24, 2009). The two co-founders of Platinum Jet, one the president/CEO and the other a vice president, were sentenced to 30 months and 18 months in prison, respectively. Each was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to defraud the FAA. The president/CEO was also convicted of lying in an NTSB accident report, endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight, and six counts of rendering false statements in relation to FAA-required paperwork to conceal that unqualified or unrested pilots were flying charter flights. See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Founders of Luxury Charter Jet Company Convicted in Illegal Flight Scheme (Nov. 15, 2010); Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Founders of Luxury Charter Jet Company Sentenced to Prison in Illegal Flight Scheme (Sept. 20, 2011). Other executives and a pilot pled guilty for their roles in operating the illegal charter flights. See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Former Pilot of Luxury Charter Jet Company Sentenced to Six Months in Prison for Flying Illegal Flights and Falsifying Safety Records (Aug. 22, 2011).

In contrast to ValuJet and Platinum Jet, a criminal investigation of the crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261 off the coast of Point Mugu, California, on January 31, 2000, did not reveal any evidence of intentional wrongdoing on the part of the airline or the maintenance company. Despite the U.S. attorneys’ office in San Francisco having commenced a criminal investigation approximately one year before the accident based on evidence that the airline had a pattern of violations with respect to maintenance records, no criminal charges were ultimately filed as a result of the accident. Instead, in a separate administrative review, the FAA found that Alaska Airlines and three of its managers had violated safety regulations, so the FAA fined the airline and revoked the mechanic licenses of two of the managers while suspending the license of the third. See Steve Miletich, “NTSB Blames Alaska, FAA in Flight 261 Crash,” The Seattle Times (December 11, 2002).

Foreign Criminal Investigations
Criminal prosecutions in aviation accident cases are much more common in Europe, Asia, and South America, particularly in civil-law countries. See Esler, “Flight Risk: The Threat of Criminalization,” supra. The purpose of a foreign criminal investigation may vary depending on the jurisdiction. Criminal proceedings are generally used as a punitive measure to punish the responsible parties. In many jurisdictions, however, they may also provide an alternative means of compensation to victims, their families, and other injured parties.

In Spain, for example, criminal proceedings are currently pending in relation to the crash of Spanair Flight 5022 in Madrid on August 20, 2008, which may also resolve civil claims for damages. See In re Air Crash at Madrid, Spain, on August 20, 2008, No. 2:10-ml-02135, 2011 WL 1058452, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2011) (citing affidavit of Professor Pablo Salvador-Coderch). The head of Spanair’s maintenance department and a Spanair mechanic were charged with 154 crimes of manslaughter and 18 crimes of negligent injuries (negligence is recognized as a criminal offense in the Spanish Criminal Code). See Air Crash at Madrid, No. 2:10-ml-02135, Affidavit of Salvador-Coderch, D.E. No. 197, at 4. Numerous passengers’ families joined the proceedings. At the close of the criminal trial, prosecutors will request that victims and their families supply evidence supporting their claims for damages, and the judge will determine their award. Id. at 6. This, in effect, saves the victims the expense of litigating their case in a separate action.

As another example, a French judge found Continental Airlines and one of its maintenance engineers guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the July 2000 Concorde accident at Charles de Gaulle International Airport. See Nicola Clark, “French Court Convicts Continental in Concorde Disaster,” N.Y. Times (Dec. 6, 2010). According to French aviation accident investigators, a piece of metal had dropped off a Continental aircraft that took off just before the Concorde and punctured the jet’s tires, sending debris into fuel tanks and sparking a fatal fire. Continental was fined $265,000 and was ordered to pay more than $1.3 million to Air France-KLM Group, the aircraft operator. The Continental mechanic received a 15-month suspended sentence and was fined $2,650. Continental called the decision “absurd” and filed an appeal. Id.; see also Tess Stynes, “Continental Appeals Concorde Crash Verdict,” Wall Street Journal (Dec. 14, 2010).

In addition to Continental and its employees, charges were also brought against two of the aircraft manufacturer’s employees, who allegedly had knowledge about the dangers posed by the location of the aircraft’s fuel tank above the tires. The court acquitted these individuals, but held their employer, European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co., partly responsible. A former official of France’s civil aviation authority was also charged, but was cleared of any wrongdoing in certifying the aircraft.

Similarly, in 2006, a French court investigating the 1992 Air Inter crash near Strasbourg acquitted six individual defendants from air traffic control, the airline, and the aviation safety agency of manslaughter charges. The court found Airbus and Air France (parent of Air Inter) liable for damages and ordered Air France and Airbus to pay compensation to the relatives. See Six Accused in 1992 Air Inter Strasbourg Crash Acquitted, Airbus and Air France Ordered to Pay Compensation, (July 11, 2006).

In other instances, political pressure and public outrage may further prompt judicial authorities to pursue criminal charges. For example, after the September 2006 mid-air collision of a Legacy business jet and a GOL Airlines B737 in Brazil, authorities immediately commenced a criminal investigation into the role of the two American pilots flying the Legacy jet. Notably, the Legacy pilots had not violated any regulations, were reportedly not aware of the inactivation of the transponder and collision-avoidance equipment, and were following air traffic control clearances. The Legacy pilots and three Brazilian air traffic controllers were ultimately charged with negligence and involuntary manslaughter. The pilots were acquitted of the negligence charge in 2008, but in 2010, a judge overturned that ruling. The judge recently sentenced each pilot to four years and four months in a “semi-open” prison, but commuted the sentences to community service to be served in the United States. See “Pilots Avoid Jail in Brazil Crash,” N.Y. Times (May 16, 2011).

Following the 2007 crash of Garuda Indonesia Airways Flight GA200 in Indonesia, local prosecutors brought criminal charges against the pilot-in-command. According to the accident report, the pilot was flying too fast and his flight-path angle was too steep during approach and landing phases. See Nat’l Transportation Safety Committee, Aircraft Accident Investigation Report: Garuda Boeing 737 Crash at Yogyakarta (Oct. 7, 2007). Instead of executing a go-around, as was company procedure, the pilot proceeded with the landing. Although the pilot’s conduct was characterized as negligent, he was found guilty of criminal negligence under Indonesian law and sentenced to two years in prison. See Slamet Susanto, “Garuda Pilot Gets Two Years for Negligence,” The Jakarta Post (Apr. 7, 2009). The criminal conviction was overturned after an appellate court determined that the prosecutors failed to prove that the pilot was “officially and convincingly guilty of a crime.” Adam Gartrell, “Garuda Crash Pilot’s Conviction Overturned,” Australian Associated Press (Dec. 12, 2009).

Brazilian authorities indicted several government and airline officials for the crash of TAM Airlines Flight 3054, including five officials from the Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (Brazil’s civil aviation agency), three employees of the Brazilian airport authority, and two TAM employees responsible for flight safety and flight operation. See Tazoe v. Airbus S.A.S., 631 F.3d 1321, 1329 (11th Cir. 2011). Criminal charges likewise were brought against 12 individuals following the 2007 crash of Atlasjet Flight 4203 in the mountains of Turkey. Two of the 12 charged were high-ranking officials at the Civil Aviation General Directorate in Turkey who face up to 15 years in jail. See “Officials Face 15 Years’ Imprisonment over Plane Crash,” Today’s Zaman (Feb. 19, 2010).

The collision of Scandinavian Airlines System Flight 686 with a Cessna Citation at the Linate Airport in Milan resulted in two trials in Italy. In 2004, a court convicted four defendants, including one air traffic controller and the former director of the Italian air traffic control agency (ENAV) of manslaughter and negligence and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from six and a half to eight years. In 2005, a court convicted three other employees of ENAV and one airport official of manslaughter and sentenced them to four years and four months. Several of these convictions were upheld by an Italian appeals court in 2006 and by Italy’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, in April 2008. See “4 Convicted in 2001 Milan Plane Crash,” N.Y. Times (Mar. 15, 2005); Roberto Landucci, “Court Upholds 5 Convictions in Italian Air Crash,” Reuters (Feb. 20, 2008).

Impact on Civil Investigations and Litigation
Criminal proceedings arising from a crash can prejudice civil investigations and lawsuits brought by victims’ families. With increased risk of criminal prosecution, frontline employees, such as pilots, mechanics, and engineers, may be less willing to cooperate or testify. In the United States, knowledgeable individuals fearing criminal prosecution may plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify at all. Where individuals and employees are considered potential targets of criminal prosecution, numerous issues need to be addressed by counsel for the corporate defendants. An individual may require separate criminal counsel because, at times, the interests of the employer and its employee may not be aligned and there may be little cooperation between the parties. Insurers may also use potential criminal charges as a reason to deny coverage for or issue a reservation of rights regarding the individual’s representation and defense. Parties, such as manufacturers, also need to be mindful of information provided to criminal investigative authorities, particularly because the criminal investigators may lack the expertise of the official government investigators.

Local criminal prosecutors have interfered with civil investigations and lawsuits by seizing and then refusing access to crucial evidence. Following the crash of a Cessna 650 Citation III near Rome on February 7, 2009, the flight recorders were seized for a judicial inquiry because Italian regulations provide that the prosecutorial investigation supersede the technical investigation. The Italian aircraft accident investigation board, Agenzia Nazionale per la Sicurezza del Volo (ANSV), complained that it was not able to conduct a thorough investigation into the accident due to the seizure by judicial authorities. Not until several weeks later did the ANSV receive transcripts of the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. See “Italian Investigation Into Fatal Citation Crash Frustrated By Judicial Inquiry,” Aviation Safety Network (February 19, 2009); “ANSV Italy: Judicial Authorities Share FDR, CVR Data of Fatal Citation Crash,” Aviation Safety Network (April 1, 2009).

Likewise, after the November 2008 loss of an Air New Zealand A320 that crashed into the Mediterranean Sea during an acceptance flight, prosecutors in France took control of the flight data recorders and interfered with the technical investigation by preventing the Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses pour la Sécurité de l’Aviation Civile (BEA), the French authority responsible for civil aviation accident investigations, from sending the recorders to the United States for read-outs. Additionally, the prosecutor apparently made improper and prejudicial comments to the press regarding the content of the recorders. See Ramon Lopez, “Accident Probes Hamstrung by Criminal Sanctions; Safety News,” Aviation Today (Mar. 6, 2009). And following the Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 accident at Schiphol Airport on February 25, 2009, a Dutch prosecutor became involved in the accident investigation and took charge until the Dutch government stepped in and advised that the Dutch Safety Accident investigators had primary jurisdiction. The prosecutor was ordered not to interfere with the safety investigation.

In many cases where litigation arising from a foreign accident has been brought in the United States, the defendants will point to a pending foreign criminal proceeding as an additional factor that supports dismissal of the case on forum non conveniens grounds. Specifically, defendants will focus on the inability to compel the appearance of certain witnesses in the United States, the inaccessibility of evidence developed in the investigation, and the inability to implead local parties that the investigation may have revealed to be at fault. This was the situation in the forum non conveniens decisions involving TAM Airlines Flight 3054, where the indicted individuals included officials from Brazil’s civil aviation agency and employees from the airport authority. Tazoe v. Airbus S.A.S., 631 F.3d 1321 (11th Cir. 2011); see also Air Crash at Madrid, 2011 WL 1058452, at *10–11 (noting the importance of testimony from air traffic controllers located in Spain); Lleras v. Excelaire Servs., 354 Fed. Appx. 585, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 26208 (2d Cir. Dec. 2, 2009).

Finally, the existence of criminal proceedings, which may drag on for years, can impede settlement of the civil litigation, particularly where some family members are parties to the criminal proceedings.

The tension created by the threat of criminalizing negligent conduct is only compounded by the severity of convictions rendered by courts outside of the United States in the past decade. Counsel to a party who has the potential to be implicated in an aviation disaster investigation must be prepared for complications created by parallel investigations and criminal proceedings, which will differ from case to case based on the nature of the accident, the regulatory agencies and governments involved, and the scope of the criminal investigators’ authority. Events following an aviation disaster move rapidly, and counsel must be equipped to provide prompt advice concerning appropriate communications with and disclosures to safety investigators and criminal prosecutors. Information disclosed by the party will be utilized, and indeed may even be interpreted, differently by criminal and civil investigators.

Criminal proceedings will also have an important impact on counsel’s representation of a client in a civil proceeding. If investigations or prosecutions are looming, counsel may be faced with employees who are reluctant to cooperate or testify. And to the extent that plaintiffs in civil litigation participate in criminal proceedings, counsel may need to navigate through much murkier settlement negotiations because defendants will be less willing to settle claims unless individual plaintiffs discontinue their participation in the criminal case.

Despite widespread criticism against the unnecessary criminalization of aviation accidents, it is clear that many foreign governments will continue to pursue criminal investigations and prosecutions for conduct amounting to negligence. These proceedings unavoidably conflict with the goal of civil investigations to prevent future accidents through improvements in aviation safety. While it is ultimately the task of regulatory authorities in the United States and abroad to maintain the integrity of the investigative process, it is clear that counsel will play an important role in assisting in that endeavor.

Keywords: litigation, mass torts, aviation, National Transportation Safety Board, criminal investigation

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