U.S. Government Faces Aeroflot Crash Lawsuit

Two American law firms plan to jointly sue the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration over the crash of an Aeroflot-Nord Boeing 737-500 on the outskirts of Perm a month ago.

Nolan Law Group and Ribbeck Law Chartered filed a petition for discovery as well as a formal claim against the FAA on the part of Alexei Afanasenkov, a Russian citizen, whose son, also Alexei, died in the Sept. 14 crash, which killed all 88 people on board as the plane prepared to land.

Five other family members of crash victims are also involved in the suit, though only one needs to be named. Claimants will receive monetary compensation, paid out by the U.S. government, if the court finds in their favor, Ellis said.

"I wouldn't say it's common, but it's not unusual for a foreign national to sue the U.S. government," said Tom Ellis, a spokesman for Nolan Law Group.

Although the cause of the crash, which involved a 16-year-old Boeing operated by a subsidiary of state-owned Aeroflot, has yet to be determined, the petition calls for documents and information about those who could be held responsible.

The claim by Afanasenkov said the FAA failed to "properly regulate U.S. training institutions which provided training to the crew."

A 1998 treaty between the United States and Russia promoting aviation safety said the FAA would monitor aviation training facilities in the United States that provide training to Russian pilots.

"There were duties and treaties that were involved here that were just not seen through," Ellis said.

The law firms argue that the FAA did not fulfil its side of the agreement.

"The circumstances of the crash have highlighted the dangerous shortcomings in the training of pilots accustomed to Eastern-built aircraft transitioning into operation of Western-built airliners," the law firms said.

Russian officials said the captain, who had received training for the Boeing 737-500 at a U.S. school in 2006, according to the law firms, had relatively little experience with the plane, since he had flown mostly Soviet-made aircraft during his career, according to industry web site Aero-news.net.