As a Business Traveler is it Safe to fly on Commuter Airlines or Should You Stick to Private Jets?

Whenever there is an airliner which goes down, has an incident, near miss, or god forbid a crash we hear about it. It is kind of unfair considering the incredible safety record of the airlines. The airlines in the US are the safest in the world, and the safety record would seem like magic anywhere else on the globe. It takes hard work, attention to detail, and a safety first attitude.

Many in the airlines accuse the FAA of breathing down their necks, but the FAA asserts that thanks to them and the FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations) airline travel is the safest way to travel now. Okay, that’s a decent argument. Not long ago, I was having a conversation with a fellow think tanker, Troy Laclaire, about computer automation, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or UASs (unmanned aerial systems), and how in the future the airlines would be even safer, albeit without the pilots.

In discussing all the automated systems, autopilots, better air traffic control technologies etc, Troy mentioned; “and that’s one reason why there have been more than a few “pilot error” caused problems.” Indeed, I believe so, there are too many low time pilots who go from 1500 hours to their first charter flight or commuter airline job, and most of their twin engine time or multi engine time is in a Beechcraft Duchess, or a Piper Seneca. They just really have no business flying a jet full of people, or a commuter aircraft.

Troy recalled an unfortunate crash of a plane a couple of years back, which was deemed pilot error and he stated “something happened and the pilot pulled up sharp, started to stall, pushed the nose down.. ended up porpoising a few times before crashing. In this case, all the pilot would have had to do was release the controls, as he kept over correcting and as the auto pilot was still engaged it could have possibly saved the aircraft.”

In other words, automated systems have errors too. Yes, he’s right, but advanced systems are often better than human pilots and did you know when F-18s take off of the aircraft carrier, the autopilot flies the aircraft for them, and it makes 10 to 20 corrections the second or more. Much more than a human could handle. It’s safer that way. I’m not sure which accident he was talking about above, but I have seen such accidents. Even happens in fighter aircraft.

Anyway the moral to this story is there is pilot error and computer error, there is air traffic control errors, and mechanical failures, but airlines are still extremely safe, and if you are a business traveler, it’s probably still safer to fly commercially than in your own private jet, unless your pilot has lot of experience, and you maintain your aircraft extremely well. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this.

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