The brother of an Atlas Air pilot who was killed when a cargo plane crashed in February is suing the company.
The Atlas Boeing 767 full of Amazon packages left Miami International Airport and crashed 40 miles outside of Houston on Feb. 23, 2019, killing all three pilots on board, including Conrad Jules Aska, 44, of Miami. His younger brother, Elliott Aska, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Atlas and Amazon on Thursday in Miami-Dade County court.
Atlas Air is MIA’s largest cargo airline.
A Miami Herald investigation in June found that Atlas pilots repeatedly warned executives that a plane was going to crash, citing poor training, inadequate flying experience, and high turnover, as the company expanded with the growth of online shopping.
During the February flight, Aska was the first officer. The captain, Ricky Blakely, 60, of Indiana, and passenger Sean Archuleta, 36, of Texas, a Mesa Air pilot, also died. At the time, Blakely had worked for Atlas since September 2015 and had 11,000 hours of flying time, 1,250 hours on the 767. Aska had worked for Atlas since July 2017 and had 5,000 hours of flying time, 520 hours on the 767.
Elliott Aska’s lawsuit claims the maintenance on the plane was inadequate and seeks to hold the companies accountable.
“Atlas Air knew or reasonably should have foreseen that the failure to exercise reasonable care in the maintenance and use of the aircraft, including ensuring its airworthiness, created a broad zone of risk that posed a general threat of harm to occupants of the subject aircraft,” the lawsuit said.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment. Debbie Coffey, a spokesperson for Atlas Air, said, “We remain heartbroken by the loss of Flight 3591 that claimed the lives of two Atlas Air pilots, and a third pilot from another airline that was a passenger. Their families continue to be our top priority.”
Aska remembers his brother as the “life of the conversation.” Originally from Antigua, Aska said that few people made it as far in their aviation careers as Conrad did.
“He thought everyone should be a pilot. He was very encouraging to young kids,” said Aska. “Conrad was very excited about this particular point in his life.”
In May, Archuleta’s widow sued Atlas Air and Amazon in federal court, alleging the companies failed to adequately train their pilots and prevent the crash. That case is pending.
In July, Atlas Air CEO Bill Flynn announced he would step down at the end of the year. The company said the move is not related to the February crash and safety concerns among pilots.
Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, formed in 2001, is now the parent company of four cargo airlines — Atlas Air, Polar Air, Titan Aviation Leasing and Southern Air. Since 2010, the company’s fleet has grown from 29 planes to 114, including 51 Boeing 747s, making it the world’s largest 747 carrier.