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Expert Lawyers Say Aviation Safety Has Significantly Improved 30 Years On From Manchester Air Disaster

Disaster And Legal Action Brought About Improved Airline Safety Measures


Expert aviation lawyers who represented families of victims who lost their lives in the Manchester Air Disaster of 22 August 1985 say the disaster left a lasting legacy which has led to significant improvements in air travel safety.

Fifty-five passengers and cabin crew lost their lives when an engine failure caused a fire to break out on the British Airtours Flight 28M during take-off at Manchester International Airport.

Many of the dead perished due to inhalation of toxic smoke and the disaster led to a number of safety improvements, such as emergency floor lighting, changes to evacuation procedures and the design of and access to emergency exits, which helped to make air travel much safer.

The Manchester Air Disaster also highlighted the significance of the Emergency Services’ response after a disaster, the difference that DNA testing can make to the timing of formal identification of victims and the importance of communicating with families in addition to offering counselling.

Survivors and family members of the deceased joined together after the disaster to form the Survivors Campaign to Improve Safety in Airline Flight Equipment (SciSafe).

The group became one of the founder members of Disaster Action, a charity that gives support to those affected by disasters and aims to create a health and safety culture in which disasters are less likely to occur.

Disaster Action now has members from 28 disasters over a period of 40 years and has campaigned tirelessly to make aircraft safer and to ensure organisations are more accountable for the safety of the travelling public.

The Manchester Air Disaster also led to a change in the way legal claims were handled.

Geraldine McCool, a Partner and specialist aviation and military injury lawyer, who qualified as an aviation lawyer in Manchester around the time of the disaster, said:

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“The Manchester Air Disaster had a huge impact on aviation safety and it is important 30 years on that we remember those who died that day and the impact their loved ones have had on the aviation industry thanks to their determination that other families will not go through the same as they did.

“As well as making aircraft safer, the events after the disaster shaped aviation law. It was the first occasion on which Claimants’ solicitors truly coordinated their efforts, working under the now familiar Steering Committee/Group Solicitor structure.

“The credible threat of legal action in the States led to a Mid-Atlantic settlement for compensation with US defendants associated with the aircraft’s component parts.

“The legal legacy of the disaster shaped group actions in many of the disasters that followed - Lockerbie, Piper Alpha and British Midlands at Kegworth - but above all, 30 years on, we should recognise that the efforts of the families and survivors have made air travel safer for us all.”
Geraldine McCool, Partner

A 30th anniversary service of remembrance will be held at Manchester Airport on Saturday 22 August, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the garden of remembrance.

BBC Manchester will also be hosting a reception where SciSafe’s William Beckett will be speaking to attendees about the disaster, the organisation’s work and the improvements in aviation safety.

A number of survivors and those who lost loved ones in the disaster have continued to call for an apology from the airline and the airport ahead of the 30th anniversary.

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