RIP, Edward Stimpson, Who Helped Save an Industry

By November 28, 2009Briefly Legal

From The Associated Press, “Edward Stimpson, aviation advocate, dies at 75

BOISE, Idaho — Edward Stimpson, an aviation advocate who pushed to rejuvenate struggling small aircraft manufacturers in the 1990s by limiting lawsuits against them, has died after a five-month illness. He was 75…

Stimpson, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for 25 years, was a major proponent of legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994 to prevent general aviation companies from being named as defendants in lawsuits in crashes of small planes 18 years old or older.

The legislation that Stimpson was such an effective advocate for was the General Aviation Revitalization Act, or GARA. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association explains the importance of the law and its 18-year statute of repose:

The General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) created an 18-year statute of repose for general aviation aircraft and reinvigorated the industry, creating jobs and inspiring the development of new products, while making general aviation safer and more reliable than ever.

In 1994 when GARA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, airplane shipments had declined 95 percent from the previous decade and the industry had lost over 100,000 jobs. Cessna Aircraft Company, the largest general aviation manufacturer in the world, had stopped making single-engine piston airplanes. Piper Aircraft Company was in bankruptcy and Beech Aircraft had shut down most of its piston production lines. A review of all the lawsuits defended by one company over a ten year period found that the NTSB had not attributed the cause of these accidents to design defects. Yet, that company had paid nearly $535,000 per accident in litigation costs. In 1994 Congress, airplane manufacturers, owners, and pilot groups all finally agreed that GARA was the only solution to solving the frivolous lawsuit problem.

We honor a man who represented manufacturers so ably while improving the quality of life for Americans. His achievements were many, marked in 1998 by his receiving the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy for public service in aviation.

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