Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pilot's Widow Files Suit Radio by Motorola at Center of Dispute

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Pilot's Widow Files Suit Radio by Motorola at Center of Dispute

Article excerpt

*********** CORRECTION (1/12/99)

Because of a reporting error, a story on Page A-1 Saturday misstated the amount a lawsuit is seeking in damages from a survival radio manufacturer on behalf of the widow of a Navy pilot downed during the Persian Gulf war. The amount sought is in excess of $15,000.

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Almost eight years after her husband's plane was shot down over Iraq, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher's widow is suing the manufacturer of his survival radio, alleging that Speicher survived the crash only to be left for dead when his radio failed.

Lawyers for Joanne Speicher Harris say there is evidence that Speicher, a Cecil Field-based FA-18 Hornet pilot, safely ejected from his Navy fighter-bomber and would have used the radio to summon help if it had been working properly.

They say the Motorola AN/PRC112 radio -- used widely throughout the military -- has a track record of problems, and that some pilots refuse to fly with it.

"Once safely on the ground, LCDR Speicher was unable to establish radio contact with awaiting U.S. rescue forces because his radio failed to operate as intended," the lawsuit says.

Speicher was the only U.S. casualty unaccounted for in the Persian Gulf war. Evidence discovered after the war suggests Speicher, who was listed as missing until 1996, could have bailed out of his plane.

However, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday there is no evidence to demonstrate he survived the loss of his plane, was captured or that his radio played a role in his fate.

Also, a spokesman for Motorola said the radio has no history of widespread problems, and the company stands behind the product.

More than 20,000 units have been delivered throughout the United States and foreign militaries over the past 11 years.

The fact that government customers have continued to buy the radios -- recently discontinued to make room for new models -- "speaks to their overall satisfaction with the product," Motorola spokesman Lawrence Moore said.

Robert Spohrer, an attorney for Harris, who has since remarried and declined comment, said Speicher was carrying the radio when he took off on Jan. 16, 1991, to deliver the opening volley of the Persian Gulf war.

Flying from the carrier USS Saratoga, he was part of the first wave of the attack, suppressing surface-to-air missile sites for U.S. bombers. He also was the first flier to not return.

About 2 hours and 15 minutes into the flight, his wingman reported seeing a flash in the vicinity of Speicher's aircraft, according to a Pentagon memo summarizing an investigation into Speicher's shootdown.

But it wasn't until years after the war's end that the wreckage of the plane was discovered. A military officer from Qatar was led there by desert nomads who were selling parts from an FA-18 Hornet at a bazaar, Spohrer said. …

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