Kalitta sues United for negligence

KALITTA Air is suing United Air Lines over negligent maintenance that caused one of its engines to break in mid-flight. However, the ownership history of the engine may cause problems to Kalitta’s case.

Papers submitted to the local Michigan court reveal how in 1996 Polar Air contracted United to service repairs on one of its Pratt & Whitney engines. The maintenance also included repairing a high-pressure turbine module. In 1998, Polar placed the engine in storage for five years and then sold it to Kalitta in 2003. The next year, Kalitta removed the module from the engine and installed it on a second engine, which was then installed on one of Kalitta’s 747 freighters. A month later, in October, the engine separated from the freighter after take-off from Chicago O’Hare Airport and fell into Lake Michigan, damaging the aircraft doing so.

United admits that its 1996 repairs to the module were negligent, but argues that it had no duty to parties other than Polar, nor any “separate and distinct” duty to subsequent owners.

Kalitta’s defence instead claims that “[a] mechanic’s certification of airworthiness is not valid for any particular period of time into the future.”

Its chief mechanic said: “When you affix your signature with your A & P number to a tag or an item, you’re saying that you’re responsible for it through its life. If something happens to that piece you worked on…yet you still signed it as airworthy and serviceable, then they can come back and do a licensing action on you.”

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