The widow of Rockwell International test pilot Tommie Douglas Benefield, who was killed in the crash of a B-1 bomber prototype five years ago, has been awarded a $1.4-million judgement against an engineering company that made equipment for the plane.
A Los Angeles Superior Court jury determined that part of a mechanism that was designed to put a parachute into place above the plane's ejection capsule was defective.
That defect caused the capsule to slam into the desert floor at an angle, killing Benefield, said attorney Tom Girardi, who represented Suzanne Benefield in the suit.
The plane crashed in 1984 while on a low-speed, low-altitude test run over the Mohave Desert, less than a week before Rockwell rolled out the first production model of the $200-million bomber.
At the time of the crash, Air Force officials said the crew failed to shift fuel inside the bomber as they moved the wings forward, causing the craft to lose its balance. Two others aboard the plane survived.
Denver-based Ordinance Engineering Associates, which manufactured the equipment in question, is considering an appeal.
"We don't believe that his death was the fault of OEA," said Philip Johnson, attorney for the firm.