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Jury Finds World Airways Partly At Fault For 1982 World Airways Plane Crash

April 23, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ A federal judge on Wednesday found World Airways, the Federal Aviation Administration and the operators of Logan International Airport all partly to blame for a 1982 airline crash that injured dozens of passengers and presumably killed two.

Basing his decision on a trial that included three months of testimony, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Keeton found World Airways 50 percent to blame in the crash of World Airways Flight 30, which skidded off a runway into frigid Boston Harbor.

Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airport, was found to be 30 percent at fault in the crash and the FAA was said to be 20 percent to blame.

Keeton, who took over the complex case in February when a jury failed to reach a verdict after a week of deliberations, said a trial would be held this fall to determine damages owed by each party.

The three parties had all blamed each other for the crash.

Keeton said the pilot was at fault for landing ″too fast, too far down the runway, and with flaps at 35 rather than at 50 degrees.″ Opened wing flaps slow down a plane.

The judge said that Massport failed to close the runway despite hazardous conditions and that neither it nor the FAA had let World know that conditions had deteriorated.

Charles Parrott, attorney for Massport, said, ″We’re delighted the judge found at least 50 percent negligence was with World. We said all along they were the cause of the accident.″

James Meehan, World Airways lawyer, said that he also was pleased with the decision and that it may allow World to collect damages from Massport.

FAA attorney John Fredericksen said he had no comment.

World Airways was trying to recover $75 million in damages, including the cost of the wrecked jumbo jet, from Massport and the FAA, claiming their negligence was the main cause of the accident.

Massport and the Justice Deprtment, representing the FAA, had filed counterclaims against World Airways and cross-claims against each other.

In final arguments, attorneys for World argued that air traffic controllers knew but failed to warn the pilot that runway conditions had deteriorated from fair-to-poor to poor-to-nil.

Massport attorneys, however, discounted claims that airport officials failed to investigate a report from another jet pilot who landed eight minutes before the crash that braking conditions had deteriorated.

And FAA attorneys pointed to trial testimony indicating pilots use their own judgment based on their experience to determine braking conditions and that it is not an exact science. They urged jurors to look at the braking condition reports in context and not base their opinions solely on the report from the pilot who landed eight minutes before Flight 30.

The World Airways DC-10, carrying 197 passengers and 12 crew members from Newark, N.J., touched down at Logan after dark on Jan. 23, 1982, then slid off the runway into shallow water.

The impact sheared off the cockpit and first passenger row. Thirty-nine passengers were injured and two, Walter Metcalf and his son, Leo, were presumed drowned. The two men have never been found.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said later that Flight 30 had landed 14 mph too fast and 1,000 feet too far down the runway. But the board concluded the runway was so slippery the jet would have ended up in the water even if it had landed properly.

More than 120 claims against the airline filed by passengers aboard the plane have been settled out of court for amounts ranging from $52 to $85,000, according to court documents. Only two passenger claims remain unsettled, and they are not part of the trial.

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