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Friday, October 23, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Widow of pilot killed in Felts Field crash sues airplane manufacturer, alleging flawed design

The wreckage of a 1996 Piper Malibu flown by Lyndon Amestoy and Richard Runyon is pulled from the Spokane River on Saturday, May 9, 2015, near Felts Field in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
The wreckage of a 1996 Piper Malibu flown by Lyndon Amestoy and Richard Runyon is pulled from the Spokane River on Saturday, May 9, 2015, near Felts Field in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The wife of one of the men who died in a plane crash near Felts Field last year has filed a lawsuit this month against the companies that built and maintained the airplane, alleging the design was flawed.

Lyndon Amestoy was a passenger in the plane, which was piloted by Richard Runyon. Both men were employees of Rocket Engineering. They were taking the Piper PA-46 350P on a post-inspection test flight after repairs had been made.

There were control problems shortly after take off on May 7, 2015, and Runyon called in an emergency to Felts Field. He was trying to return for a landing when the plane veered out of control and crashed in the Spokane River.

The National Transportation Safety Board ruled this fall that the plane’s cables that controlled banking and turning were improperly installed.

The lawsuit alleges that Piper Aircraft, which built the plane, and Spokane-based JetProp LLC, which maintained it, should have known that the design of the airplane was flawed. According to the lawsuit, similar crashes involving improperly installed aileron control cables have happened in Piper PA-31 aircraft, which have the same system as the PA-46.

Aviation regulations require that elements of the flight control systems must be well marked and distinctive. Instead the cables and bolts were all identical, which allowed them to be installed backwards without anyone detecting the error, the lawsuit states.

Piper Aircraft and JetProp LLC did not return calls seeking comment.

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