The father of a 27-year-old pilot who died after taking off from the Millard Airport has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the manufacturer of the engines of the plane he was flying.
Michael S. Trubilla, a Pennsylvania native, filed a lawsuit against Continental Motors and several other defendants over the July 24, 2016, crash that killed Trubilla’s namesake and son, Michael, and a flight instructor, 61-year-old Ron Panting of Papillion.
The younger Trubilla, an Air Force captain stationed at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue from May 2013 until his death, had been completing his certification to become a civilian pilot. He was flying with the LeMay Aero Club, an Offutt-based flying club that owned the nonmilitary twin-engine plane.
The defendants have yet to file a response in court over the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit:
About 2:45 p.m. July 24, 2016, Trubilla and Panting had taken off from the Millard Airport. About 3 p.m., a witness, who is a certified pilot, heard one of the engines reduce in power and begin to sputter west of Omaha.
He next heard the engines increase in power followed by the engines going quiet, as if idling or stalled.
The man walked out to look for the airplane and saw it in a spin, as it descended toward the ground. The nose of the Baron Beechcraft 95-B55 struck a soybean field near Leshara, Nebraska, and the plane burst into flames.
The lawsuit, filed by Omaha attorneys John Kinney and Jill Mason, alleges that the twin-engine plane “has had a dangerous propensity to enter an unrecoverable spin.” The engines have “a history of failures,” the lawsuit says.
“There was nothing that Trubilla could have done to recover the aircraft,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit named Teledyne Industries. However, a Chinese-based company, AVIC, purchased the plane engine division from Teledyne in 2011. Teledyne is no longer involved in the manufacture of the small-plane engines, a spokesman said.
The engines have been the subject of a number of lawsuits following small-plane crashes.
Trubilla, who flew Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance jets to far corners of the world, grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of four sons of an Air Force veteran.
He was selected for an appointment to the Air Force Academy, where he made a huge impact with a research project that salvaged a $50 million investment by creating a fuel system to propel certain types of small satellites. A professor called it the best research he had seen a cadet do.
Trubilla also had volunteered on a mission trip to Haiti, where he rocked babies and cared for sick children. And friends and family say he enjoyed taking part in the Omaha Film Festival.