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July 17, 1952



Arnold, Bricker & Beyer, John W. Arnold, Lancaster, for appellant.

Bernard M. Zimmerman, Paul A. Mueller, Lancaster, for appellees.

Before Rhodes, P. J., and Hirt, Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.

Author: Dithrich

[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 313]


From the discharge of a rule to show cause why judgment of compulsory non-suit in this action of trespass should not be stricken off plaintiff brought this appeal. The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to appellant and giving him the benefit of all proper inferences to which he is entitled, Garvin v. City of Pittsburgh, 161 Pa. Super. 140, 53 A.2d 906, are substantially

[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 314]

    as follows. On October 19, 1947, he was the owner of a one-half interest in a Culver V airplane, a two-passenger low wing monoplane with a tricycle landing gear weighing approximately 1600 pounds. Appellant had been the holder of a private pilot's license since 1943 and was granted a commercial pilot's license on October 9, 1947, ten days before the happening of the accident which is the basis of this suit. He had approximately 340 hours flying experience as a pilot and approximately 700 hours as a flight engineer on a United States Army bomber during World War II. At the time of the accident he was employed as an aeronautical engineer at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio.

On October 19, 1947, he was flying alone on a return trip from Philadelphia to Dayton and between 7 and 7:30 p. m. approached the Lancaster Airport where he planned to land his plane for the night. It was dark when he reached Lancaster. Before leaving Philadelphia he noted from Airman's Guide, a United States Chamber of Commerce publication, that the Lancaster Airport was listed L-4 under 'Lights', which indicated 'Beacon, boundary, obstruction, and flood' lights. (Emphasis added.) He, however, had not seen a supplement to the guide dated September 30, 1947, and did not think one was available at the time at the Philadelphia Airport. In the supplement under 'Domestic Data' there appeared the following: 'Lancaster -- Lancaster Arpt: Drain-pipe on both sides NW/SE strip, mrkd-stay between red flags. Sinkhole extreme E and E/W strip-2 holes S end N/S strip, mrkd. (3-12).' Whether or not he saw the supplement is not material since, as stated by the lower court, 'the uncontradicted evidence is that the two holes indicated as marked in the Guide were not lighted to show the rock pile which the plane of plaintiff struck. The entire area of the airport as it them existed was lighted.'

[ 171 Pa. Super. Page 315]

As appellant approached the airport it was lighted with white boundary lights placed at regular intervals around the boundary of the entire field and forming a closed loop. There were no lights on the field designating the boundaries of the runways or landing strips, but within the series of boundary lights, at a point that would be reached if the runway had been projected to the boundary, was a green light and at the opposite side of the loop, had the other end of the runway been projected to the opposite boundary, was a corresponding green light. Other systems of two and three green lights designated the presence of two other runways or landing strips, so that a pilot approaching the field could line up either one, two or three lights on one side of the boundary with a corresponding number of lights on the opposite boundary and know that somewhere between the two, in a straight line, there would be a runway or landing strip.

Appellant made the normal approach for landing, circling the field in three 90-degree turns; but, in watching the field and other aircraft in the 'pattern', on the turn into the final approach he was unable to orient himself with the green lights which designated the runways or landing strips, but saw there was sufficient landing space on the turf to set his light craft down without any difficulty. He landed at a normal speed of about 50 m.p.h., 'rolled', from the impetus of his flight, and taxied for about 400 feet, when, while proceeding at a speed of approximately 30 m.p.h., the plane struck a rock pile 5 feet in diameter and projecting 18 inches above the ground. The rock pile was not lighted nor was there anything to indicate its presence on the field.

The learned court below said: 'These facts, it seems to the court, bring the plaintiff by analogy within the well established principle of law, namely, that where a ...

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