The Munson Paper Chase: Morgan Lilly deposition
One week before Munson’s fatal crash, Cessna pilot Morgan Lilly told Munson he was “completely” qualified to fly by himself.
On January 29, 1981, nearly one year after Diana Munson filed her wrongful death lawsuit, her attorney Daniel Cathcart deposed Morgan Lilly, who was employed by Cessna as a demonstration pilot after a 25-year career in the United States Air Force. Lilly accompanied Munson on seven flights, the last of which occured six days before Munson’s death. The full deposition transcript is available here. I have summarized the testimony below.
- Lilly first met Munson “in the early part of November 1978” at Akron-Canton airport for a demonstration flight of Cessna’s Citation I jet (p. 17). Munson primarily flew the plane by himself (pp. 22–23). Lilly did not attempt to sell the plane to Munson; his role was limited to explaining the plane’s features and demonstrating how it operated (pp. 29–30). [NB: Munson signed a purchase agreement for the Citation I on or about November 17, 1978.]
- Five months later, likely on April 12, 1979, Thurman flew with Lilly on a demonstration flight of a Citation II jet from Baltimore to Canton (pp. 30–31). Munson flew and landed the plane without incident (pp. 36–37). [NB: The Yankees played a three-game road series in Baltimore from April 10 to April 12. Munson played all three games at catcher and batted 6 for 14 with one run scored and 2 RBI.]
- Lilly next saw Munson on Tuesday, July 24, 1979, when Lilly flew Munson’s repaired Citation from Wichita to Akron-Canton Airport (p. 38). Lilly was told by Cessna to fly with Munson for as long as Munson wanted, as well as to provide Munson with his evaluation of Munson’s “knowledge of the aircraft systems and operation” (p. 39). About 40 minutes after Lilly arrived at the airport, Munson flew the Citation to Teterboro, New Jersey with Lilly in the front right seat (pp. 43–45). According to Lilly, Munson flew the plane safely and exhibited an acceptable level knowledge of the plane. [NB: The Yankees defeated the Angels 6–5 in a night game. Munson played catcher and batted 0–2 with a walk; he was replaced by Jerry Narron in or shortly before the 7th inning.]
- After the Angels-Yankees game (which ended at about 11 pm), Munson and Lilly drove to Teterboro and flew to Canton (pp. 47, 53). They arrived early in the morning of July 25, and Lilly slept at Munson’s house (pp. 57–58). Lilly told Munson after the flight that he had “no derogatory comments” about Munson’s handling or knowledge of the plane (p. 54).
- Later in the day on July 25, Munson and Lilly flew from Canton back to Teterboro because the Yankees had a night game (pp. 58, 61). [NB: The Yankees lost 9–5 to the Angels; Munson did not play.] The flight to Teterboro was uneventful (p. 58). Munson and Lilly remained in New York because the Yankees had a game the following afternoon (p. 61).
- On Thursday, July 26, 1979, after the Yankees defeated the Angels 2–0 without Munson in the lineup, Munson and Lilly flew back to Canton (p. 61). Later that evening, Munson flew with his wife and three children without Lilly to Columbus (pp. 63–66). Lilly testified that he offered to accompany the Munsons to Columbus, but that Thurman ultimately decided to fly without him (pp. 65–66). Lilly told Munson that in his view, Munson was “completely” qualified to fly by himself (p. 76). Lilly was not aware at that time that Munson’s insurance coverage required Munson to fly with another pilot (p. 41). Don Bauer, whom the Munsons flew to see in Columbus, testified that he told Munson that flying without Lilly was “a stupid thing to do” (p. 167). Bauer further testified that he spoke about that incident with Lilly after Munson’s death and that he was not satisfied with Lilly’s explanation (pp. 170–171).
- On Friday, July 27, 1979, Munson flew with Lilly and Anthony Dominick, Munson’s father-in-law, to Milwaukee (p. 66), where the Yankees were starting a three-game series against the Brewers. After they landed, Lilly told Munson that he was willing to stay for as long as Munson wanted, but that doing so would serve “no purpose” because Lilly had nothing else to say about Munson’s flying (p. 67). [NB: The Yankees lost 6–5 to the Brewers in a night game; Munson played catcher and batted 0–4.]
- On Saturday, July 28, 1979, Lilly told Munson that he did not think his services were needed anymore and that he had made a flight reservation to go home to Wichita (p. 68). According to Anthony Dominick, whose testimony predated Lilly’s, Lilly left Milwaukee because he wanted to get home to play in a weekend softball game (p. 31). Lilly agreed that he had talked about his softball team, but he denied that he left Milwaukee in order to play in a game or due to any other social commitments (pp. 70–71). After Lilly left Milwaukee, he had no further contact with Munson of any kind (p. 73).
- Lilly concluded his testimony by stating that Munson had never mentioned getting rid of the Citation or not flying it, and that he believed Munson enjoyed flying alone in order to escape pressures of business and work (p. 76).
Mr. Lilly died on June 1, 2004, at the age of 72.