Lawsuit: Buckhead pilot crashed plane after being ‘misdirected’ by FAA

The single-engine plane crash-landed onto the athletic field at Starr’s Mill High School in 2014.
The single-engine plane crash-landed onto the athletic field at Starr’s Mill High School in 2014.

Credit: WSB-TV – Atlanta

Credit: WSB-TV – Atlanta

A married Buckhead couple is suing federal agencies for failures they say led to them crash-landing a small plane onto an athletic field in October 2014, according to a lawsuit.

S. Blaine McCaleb III was flying a single-engine Socata TBM 850 with his wife, Cynthia McCaleb, when the plane lost engine power. Blaine McCaleb contacted the Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controller and declared an in-flight emergency, says the complaint, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court's Northern District of Georgia.

The air traffic controller misdirected Blaine McCaleb to an airport located about 10 nautical miles away, instead of one that was about 1.7 miles away, according to the filing. The former airport was beyond the distance the plane would have been able to glide without engine power; the latter was “well within” that distance, it says.

The plane crashed short of the airport allegedly identified by the FAA. The McCalebs were both injured, with Cynthia McCaleb suffering “multiple broken bones, facial injuries and scarring and traumatic brain injuries,” the complaint says.

The lawsuit does not name the two airports, and the McCaleb's attorney, Alan Armstrong, declined to identify them because the office doesn't comment on pending litigation. But in 2014, Fayette County Sheriff's officials said the plane left DeKalb-Peachtree Airport in Atlanta for Harris County Airport in Pine Mountain, but was diverted to Atlanta Regional Airport-Falcon Field in Peachtree City before crash landing in the vacant athletic field at Starr's Mill High School in Fayetteville, according to news reports at the time.

The lawsuit claims the defendants — the federal transportation department and the FAA — failed to follow training directives and failed to use reasonable care during air traffic control communications with Blaine McCaleb. The couple seeks damages.

The Department of Justice, which represents federal agencies in litigation, declined to comment.

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