Commercial, Safety

Italian Judge Orders Trial of Leonardo Employees in 2015 Crash of AW609 Prototype

By Frank Wolfe | May 28, 2019
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Leonardo AW609 (Leonardo Photo)

As the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Aviation Safety Agency consider certification of the AW609 civil tiltrotor this year, an Italian judge has ordered the trial for several Leonardo employees in the Oct. 30, 2015 crash of a prototype AW609, according to the latest Leonardo quarterly financial report.

"Note that in the first quarter 2019, with reference to the criminal proceedings relating to the accident that occurred in Santhià on 30 October 2015, which are pending before the Vercelli Public Prosecutor’s Office against three former employees of AgustaWestland S.p.A. (who are currently working for Leonardo – Helicopters Division) and an employee of AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation for the crime referred to in Article 449 of the Italian Criminal Code in relation to Articles 428 and 589 of the Italian Criminal Code, on 16 April 2019 the judge for pre-trial hearing ordered the committal for trial of all the individuals involved," according to the "contingent liabilities" section of the Leonardo quarterly financial report.

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Article 589 of the Italian Code of Criminal Procedure refers to involuntary manslaughter charges for those who cause deaths of persons due to violations of occupational health and safety protection laws.

Last year, Italian prosecutors outlined potential charges in the fatal 2015 crash of the Leonardo AW609 prototype against AW609 Program Manager Clive Scott, AW609 Program Director David King, and managers of the AW609 flight control systems Maurizio Parolini and Clemente Brena. They all "violated [their] general and specific duties of caution, expertise and diligence" regarding the No. 2 prototype crash that caused the deaths of the two onboard pilots, according to a formal document from the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Court of Vercelli in Northern Italy obtained by R&WI, dated March 20, 2018.

Both Scott and King, the document said, did not carry out adequate management check methods and engineering checks about the aircraft's behavior, and also did not "carry out an exhaustive evaluation of flight safety aspects," among other findings. These inactions, prosecutors say, led to "inadequate" or "insufficient" factors in the aircraft's flying performing and handling.

The document said Parolini and Brena "didn't coordinate the engineering and avionics techniques," accusations also listed for Scott and King. These actions led to insufficient aircraft stability at high speeds and other aircraft handling consequences.

The listed individuals are "persons under investigations charged with the crime under articles 113 and 449 because acting together and being mutually aware of their contribution in what happened, during the design, construction and test of AW609 ... under procedures to obtain the aircraft civil certification project," the document states.

Leonardo told R&WI in a statement last year that it "fully trusts the relevant authorities and is fully committed to a continued cooperation aimed at all necessary evaluations in the framework of the investigations." Leonardo said its AW609 program development and testing activities have been performed in "full compliance with national and international rules and procedures." Furthermore, Leonardo said, it puts safety of its operations and personnel at the top priority.

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