Student Pilot Awarded $4.5 Million in Midair Suit

 - September 25, 2008, 11:00 AM

The FAA has agreed to pay $4.5 million in damages to Gavin Heyworth, the sole survivor of a Nov. 6, 2003, midair between two helicopters operating at Zamperini Field in Torrance, Calif. In a trial held in May, U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper found the FAA liable for the accident. Heyworth was piloting the Robinson R22 that collided with an R44 flown by Robert Bailey and Brett Boyd, who perished in the crash. The NTSB concluded that Heyworth, a student pilot, failed to comply with an ATC clearance, thus causing the midair collision. The judge, however, found that the controllers did not conduct a proper position-relief briefing; failed to issue a safety alert to either helicopter; failed to scan the runways to the maximum extent possible; failed to maintain adequate vigilance and positional/situational awareness of airport traffic; and failed to issue clear and concise instructions to Heyworth. The FAA has not said whether it will offer a settlement to Bailey’s and Boyd’s survivors. Heyworth, who was seriously injured in the accident, has gone back to school, according to his attorney, Jeffrey Wolf, and plans to become a teacher. “The money will compensate him for the pain and suffering and the medical care he will need for the rest of his life,” Wolf said.