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Novice Pilot’s Widow Accepts Settlement

December 3, 2002

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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) _ The widow of a novice pilot killed during instruction when two small planes collided has accepted a $1.4 million settlement.

Shirley Heffner, 77, had filed a $30 million claim against the Federal Aviation Administration, which was found liable for the March 9, 2000, crash because air traffic controllers at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport failed to keep the two plane farther apart on the same runway.

``I just couldn’t take any more bickering with the government. They wear you down,″ said Heffner, who needs constant medical care because of knee and back problems. ``I’ll be glad when this is settled so we don’t have any more to do with it.″

Charlie Heffner, 80, was among four people killed in the incident. He was cleared for takeoff by controllers, who then cleared another nearby plane six seconds later. That plane rolled into Charlie Heffner’s path, and flames engulfed both planes following the collision.

Shirley Heffner has already received $300,000 in insurance money, pushing her total settlement figure to $1.7 million. But she owes more than half that much in legal fees, she said.

The FAA has not accepted the NTSB findings and accepted responsibility for the crash. The attorney representing the FAA, Colleen Conlin, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The FAA is also being sued by the families of the other three crash victims: Lori Lynn Bahrenburg, 26, Charlie Heffner’s flight instructor; and the occupants of the other plane, Julius Taubman, 81, and David Mouckley, 74.

All three of those cases are scheduled for trial next year.

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