Chalk’s crash scrutiny intensifies

 - September 26, 2006, 4:26 AM

Chalk’s Ocean Airways remained grounded at press time as maintenance crews peeled apart the wing skins and inspected the wing structures of its four remaining turboprop Mallard seaplanes in search of cracking or corrosion as ordered by an emergency AD.

Meanwhile, the airline finds itself the target of three separate lawsuits stemming from the December 19 crash of the 1947 G-73T Turbo Mallard off Miami Beach that killed all 18 passengers and two pilots. The latest complaint as of press time, filed by ex-DOT Inspector General Mary Schiavo’s Washington, D.C. law firm, Motley Rice LLC, asks for $100 million on behalf of the family of pilot Michele Marks.The suit names as defendants Chalk’s parent company, Flying Boats Inc., as well as owner James Confalone and the 21 other companies and subsidiaries he controls.

Another suit, filed by the Nolan Law Group on behalf of three passengers, will also pursue damages against any maintenance workers and parts manufacturers that might have contributed to the accident.

The first complaint, filed by John Ruiz on behalf of Kendrick Sherman of Bimini, simply seeks to divide $50 million in insurance proceeds equitably among the passengers’ families.

The suits claim that the airline failed to adequately address known corrosion risks and that it should have adopted a “rigorous maintenance plan” that included X-ray scans and removal of wing skins for detailed inspection.

Amateur video of the accident showed that the right wing separated near its root seconds after the Mallard took off from Chalk’s Watson Island seaplane base on a flight to Bimini, in the Bahamas.

The preliminary metallurgical studies located evidence of fatigue cracking in the right wing’s lower rear spar cap, along the lower wing skin and on an internal z-stringer.

After the Safety Board transported pieces of the wreckage to Washington, D.C., for more thorough examination, it found cracks in the left wing spar as well.

Maintenance records show that Chalk’s repaired corrosion in the accident airplane’s right wing spar in 1991 and performed similar repairs on the left wing in 1992. The airline repaired corrosion on the rear spar of the right wing of one of its other Mallards last August.