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Pilot-lawyer seeks to navigate claims for passengers' families

By Zhang Chunyan and Wang Mingjie in London (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-22 09:12

An experienced Chinese-British lawyer and pilot flew to Beijing from London on Friday to help families of passengers on missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 negotiate claims with the insurance companies that represent the aircraft and airline.

David Tang, who lives in the United Kingdom, has more than 26 years of legal experience and is qualified as both an English solicitor and a solicitor in Hong Kong.

He also holds both fixed-wing and helicopter pilot's licenses. He has been flying for more than 24 years and is legal counsel for the China & UK Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Tang is now working with London-based Stewarts Law to offer legal advice to families of the Chinese passengers aboard the missing Malaysian aircraft.

The law firm has helped families of passengers who were aboard Air France's flight 447, which went missing in 2009 and was found days later.

Tang told China Daily on Thursday that being both solicitor and pilot makes him a suitable and qualified candidate to represent the passengers' relatives.

"We are familiar with the insurance arrangements of this aircraft and airline, and their insurers are based in London," Tang said.

The negotiations will take place in London, he said. "We are prepared to work for those families without asking for any money at all unless we help them recover the redemption from the insurers," Tang said.

Tang's team includes a leading lawyer who used to represent insurance companies, along with pilots and flight engineers.

When it comes to why the flight went missing, Tang said: "It could really be a simple answer. There was an emergency, and the pilots tried to divert the aircraft but were incapacitated quickly, which left them unable to contact air traffic control.

"There are many reasons why the pilots may have disconnected the transponder and communication equipment, down to either electrical fault or, worse, a fire," he said.

"A fire could quickly incapacitate anyone onboard. Not all onboard fires are fast burning. Fires that slowly build up can make things go wrong in a very short amount of time once discovered."

Although the plane is missing, Tang said interim payment applications are feasible, and insurance companies will have to take a practical approach.

He pointed out that although there is no precedent for the missing airplane, a precedent will have to be set. "We will do our best to achieve the best outcome for the families," he said.

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