- Posted: May 6, 2016 at 1:17 pm
PUBLIC STATEMENT FROM ATTORNEYS MICHAEL GUMPRECHT AND ALAN ARMSTRONG:
MAY 6, 2016
Yesterday we filed a 59 page complaint in the Superior Court of Cobb County against flight school Asterix Aviation, its instructors and its parent tech company, Phobio LLC for the pre-impact terror and wrongful death of 21 year old Michael “Joseph” Hughes. Joseph’s second student solo flight on October 8, 2015 was supposed to be “supervised.”
Instead, Joseph was placed in a Piper Tomahawk with virtually empty fuel tanks, doomed to crash due to fuel exhaustion. Since this terrible loss last October, our own investigation has led us to believe that Asterix Aviation held a cavalier attitude toward flying because it was never a serious flight school – instead it was largely a corporate perk and employee benefit for local tech company Phobio LLC and its founders.
Phobio.com’s career page is crystal clear: “PILOT’S LICENSE SUBSIDIZED – Phobio leadership is passionate about civil aviation. We offer employees a free first flight and 25% of lessons covered through Asterix Aviation.”
Asterix is merely an alter ego and instrumentality of Phobio, easily summarized with a few examples of how intertwined they both are:
Phobio controls the business operations of Asterix Aviation, owns its checking account, manages and controls its aviation insurance. In fact the CFO of Phobio, Philip Wakeling, is the CEO of Asterix and co-founded both companies with his son, Stephen Wakeling—the CEO of Phobio. The web domain for Asterix is registered to Phobio’s business address, and its website is managed by Winston Astrachan, the “Dev Ops Engineer” of Phobio. And yet Asterix Aviation’s aircraft fleet insurance has Phobio’s Winston Astrachan and Stephen Wakeling listed on its policy.
Asterix Aviation is merely tech company Phobio LLC posing under a different name. When a cell phone trade-in company pretends to operate a legitimate flight school, the results are as deadly as they were for Joseph Hughes on October 8, 2015:
With only 1.3 hours of prior solo flight time, flight student Joseph Hughes’ second flight was supposed to be “supervised” per federal law. When Asterix put Joseph in its Tomahawk airplane, their “supervision” should have included:
(a) a review the fuel requirements for the flight as required by the Federal Aviation Regulations (14 C.F.R. §91.103);
(b) a visual check of the fuel quantity in the fuel tanks (14 C.F.R. §91.103);
(c) obtaining a fuel quantity reading from the fuel gauges (14 C.F.R. §91.103); and/or
(d) reviewing the Tomahawk’s Time Sheet (14 C.F.R. §91.103) and realizing it had last been fueled on October 5, 2015 and flew 4.9 hours in the interim, thus it lacked adequate fuel for a flight to the practice area, maneuvers over the practice area, and a return to the airport with a 30 minutes of fuel reserve remaining.
We believe none of this occurred. If Phobio had been running a legitimate flight school in Asterix, no student would be placed in an airplane with nearly empty fuel. We believe the negligence of Phobio through its alter-ego Asterix placed Joseph in such severe danger that the terrible loss of his life was certain once they sent this student pilot into the air.
At this time, we request continued respect for the family of Joseph as they continue to mourn. The loss of this incredible young man has been difficult for many — especially since we now know it was easily avoidable. Joseph’s entire life was cut short at 21 years old simply because a tech company took a cavalier attitude towards flying and setup up an illegitimate flight school for its own benefit.