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The Dangers of Flying Rich and Flying Private

Old 03-04-2020, 04:51 PM
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https://www.vanityfair.com/style/202...private?inline

Private jets and luxury helicopters are a nice way to travel, but Kobe Bryant and other celebrities don’t have the same regulations to protect them in flight.BY JEFF WISE

JANUARY 29, 2020The very rich fly differently than you and me, and not just in terms of coach versus first class. They have helicopters and private jets to zip around the globe in privacy and comfort. But top-drawer travel budgets don’t necessarily afford anyone an extra measure of safety. In fact, just the opposite: Private air travel can come with risks that commercial passengers never take on.

Why? Because the rules are looser for the privileged—and when it comes to safety, that’s not to their advantage. Whereas the commercial airliners that ordinary schlubs are consigned to must conform to the most stringent regulations—what the FAA calls “Part 121”—chartered aircraft fall under a more lax set of rules called “Part 135,” and sometimes an even less strict set, “Part 91,” that covers noncommercial flying, such as when aircraft owners pilot the plane themselves. (The word part refers to the fact that the rules are organized into sections, or parts, of the government’s Code of Federal Regulations.)

The consequences of the different safety standards can be seen in accident statistics. According to data compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board, in 2018 there were six fatal Part 135 crashes resulting in 12 deaths, versus just one Part 121 accident resulting in a single death. This, despite the fact that nearly five times as many hours were flown under Part 121 as under Part 135.



In most years the difference is even starker. Between 2010 and 2017, not a single airline passenger died—but the Part 135 death toll averaged 22 people per year.

Among the prominent names who have died while flying private is pro golfer Payne Stewart, who was flying in a Learjet in 1999 when it accidentally depressurized and eventually crashed, killing everyone aboard. Another is the R&B star Aaliyah, who died in a twin-engine Cessna that went down shortly after takeoff from the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. In 2004, 10 people died when a Beechcraft Super King Air primarily carrying Hendrick Motorsports executives and family members went down in Virginia. In 2010, Alaskan senator Ted Stevens died in a de Havilland Otter when it crashed en route to a remote fishing lodge. And last summer coal billionaire Chris Cline and his daughter were killed along with five others when their helicopter crashed near Cline’s private archipelago in the Bahamas.

Underlying the disproportionate risk is a fundamental tenet of aircraft regulation: the smaller the aircraft, the less scrutiny. At one end of the spectrum, a small homemade plane that weighs less than 254 pounds and carries only a single pilot can fly with almost no rules at all. At the other end, a plane in which hundreds of people might entrust their lives will get microscopic scrutiny. Part 135 aircraft, which carry no more than 30 passenger seats, are as a consequence somewhat less tightly regulated than airliners. Part 135 pilots need to undergo a proficiency check only every 12 months, for instance, compared to every 6 months for Part 121 pilots. And while airline pilots can’t fly past the age of 65 (which was raised from age 60 in 2007 due to an impending shortage of commercial pilots), there is no age restriction under Part 135. Looser oversight leaves more room for mishap.

Then there’s the ability of the flight crew. Being a captain for a major airline is the most prestigious piloting job in aviation. It pays the best and attracts the top talent. Companies that fly private jets, in contrast, are often seen as a stepping stone up into the big leagues—or a step down for a pilot who’s aged out of big iron. To be clear, most Part 135 flight crew members are skilled professionals, capable of doing their jobs safely day in and day out. But if there are oddballs rattling around—like the pilot in Aaliyah’s crash, who had traces of cocaine and alcohol in his system and wasn’t even authorized to fly the plane that he crashed—they’re perhaps more likely to turn up in Part 135. (Aaliyah’s family sued over the fact that the plane was overloaded and settled out of court; other suits were brought as well regarding the crash.)



VIP passengers, meanwhile, can present a risk factor of their own. Pilots are generally result-oriented people. They want to get the mission done. Although there is no indication that this was a factor in Bryant’s flight, the urge can be strong to forge onward even when safety margins are deteriorating. In aviation there’s a term for it: “get-there-itis.” It’s all the more powerful when the customer in the back is someone whose itinerary is the sole reason for the flight in the first place. In 2001 a Gulfstream III business jet, en route from Los Angeles, crashed while trying to land in Aspen, Colorado, at night during snowfall. Investigators later discovered that the customer who arranged the charter was hosting a party that night and became “irate” at the suggestion that the plane might have to divert to another airport, which was an issue because, as the pilot had reported back to his employer, “the customer spent a substantial amount of money on dinner.” All 18 people aboard were killed.

Though the NTSB has only started working on the Kobe Bryant crash, there’s no question that his pilot took on additional risk in flying on a morning with a low overcast and dense fog. Whether that risk ultimately contributed to the crash remains to be determined, however. Conditions were bad enough that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its own helicopter fleet, but Bryant’s pilot had obtained permission to fly under conditions of reduced visibility. The pilot was properly certified and also a flight instructor. “Supercautious, supersmart,” one of his colleagues told the New York Times. “I can’t see him making this kind of mistake.”

Though travelers in private aircraft may face a relatively high degree of risk, it’s important to emphasize the word relative. If 20 people die each year flying Part 135, that’s a minuscule number considering the millions of flight hours accomplished without incident. And it’s nothing compared to the number of people who die in motor vehicle accidents—more than 35,000 in 2015 alone.
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Old 03-04-2020, 06:29 PM
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It’s not the operation it’s the lack of knowledge and understanding on the customers side.
Why people like KB fly with an outfit that is not IFR approved and single pilot on top of that is beyond me.
You’ve got more money than you can ever spend in your life and yet you fly in a 30 year old bird.
Pretty VIP seats and junk for the pilot.
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Old 03-05-2020, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by TiredSoul
It’s not the operation it’s the lack of knowledge and understanding on the customers side.
Why people like KB fly with an outfit that is not IFR approved and single pilot on top of that is beyond me.
You’ve got more money than you can ever spend in your life and yet you fly in a 30 year old bird.
Pretty VIP seats and junk for the pilot.
Old cash strapped State of Illinois bird.
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Old 03-06-2020, 09:17 AM
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I have heard quite a few people argue the relative level of regulation and oversight of 121 vs 135 operations is backwards because flying the same routes day after day on a set schedule is inherently safer than potentially going anywhere on short notice. I can see the logic.
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Old 03-06-2020, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by flydrive
I have heard quite a few people argue the relative level of regulation and oversight of 121 vs 135 operations is backwards because flying the same routes day after day on a set schedule is inherently safer than potentially going anywhere on short notice. I can see the logic.
Ever hear the term "Familiarity breeds contempt"? I know I'm personally more prepared when flying to airports I've never been to before than the same old routes I did day in and day out with my Legacy carrier.
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Old 03-06-2020, 01:32 PM
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Berkshire keeps NJA on a relatively short leash for this reason.
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Old 03-07-2020, 06:38 PM
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It takes maturity for a pilot to know when to throw in the towel when weather conditions dictate it. The 135 industry should not be condemned for those instances when “Get their itis” supersedes all else.
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Old 03-08-2020, 08:46 AM
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Yes it should.
I’ll bet you a dollar that pilot never got any backup from the Company anytime he hesitated with weather.
This is how it should go:

Joe Pilot : Boss this weather ain’t no good.
Bossman : Lemme call the customer and cancel.
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Old 03-08-2020, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by TiredSoul
Yes it should.
I’ll bet you a dollar that pilot never got any backup from the Company anytime he hesitated with weather.
This is how it should go:

Joe Pilot : Boss this weather ain’t no good.
Bossman : Lemme call the customer and cancel.
its been awhile since I flew 135, but canceled twice due to TRW, never heard a word about it. Pilots put a Loy pressure on themselves, not the boss/owner
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Old 03-09-2020, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by TiredSoul
Yes it should.
I’ll bet you a dollar that pilot never got any backup from the Company anytime he hesitated with weather.
This is how it should go:

Joe Pilot : Boss this weather ain’t no good.
Bossman : Lemme call the customer and cancel.
it depends on the company. My last company supported me 100%. No questions asked. It was nice.
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