As a private jet charter company, many clients ask about safety. We see many Argus Registered / Certified Brokers and aircraft operators with Wyvern Certifications. This is all great as you can never be too safe. However, there can be some exaggerated private jet safety concerns.
Private jets in general are very safe. The FAA has very strict rules for aircraft maintenance, which is even more stringent if the aircraft is for charter purposes.
It is estimated that 98% of private jet aircraft in the U.S. are in compliance with the regulations. So, this means that operators take this very seriously.
So, as a layperson, what should one know about aircraft safety for peace of mind. For starters, just like a car if it’s old or has a lot of miles on it (in an aircraft it’s total engine hours and landings), then that may be a consideration.
The most common two reasons for an aircraft incident are mechanical failure or pilot error. In the case of mechanical failure, the #1 cause is an engine. And as for pilots, it’s usually bad weather conditions or lack of experience flying that particular aircraft. Both of these can be easily checked prior to taking the flight.
Let’s start with the engine. Like a boat, generally engines are inspected annually or every 100 hours. But as a practical matter, the oil needs to be changed every 20-50 hours, so the engines are always under observation. The big engine issue is the time before overhaul (TBO). That is basically when the engine needs to be rebuilt. But there is even another layer of safety called the hot inspection.
The hot inspection is done after half of the engine TBO has passed. Here the engine is all but taken apart to inspect for any bad parts. Think of it like your car needs an engine rebuilt at 200,000 miles but someone takes the engine apart at 100,000 miles to check it. Seems like overkill, but it’s a good thing for safety.
So, what about the pilot. This is an easy one. Ask the broker or carrier for the pilot’s experience in the aircraft you’re about to fly in. If it’s under 250 hours, you may want to get another pilot. Pilots are required to stay actively flying. This is verified annually to keep their license so their flight readiness will not be an issue, just the experience on that particular aircraft.
I am reminded of something that happened to me years ago. I was taking a commercial flight from the Bahamas to New York City. While waiting to board, they announced that the aircraft had an issue with pressurization and would not be able to fly above 10,000 feet. They said everyone could wait for another flight or could take this flight to Miami and get an additional free flight to any other domestic destination. Surprisingly almost no one took the offer. I was not sure until I had a chance to talk to the pilot.
He simply said “do you think I want to die or would I fly an unsafe aircraft ?”. That did it for me. The flight was fine except it was a little noisy. I think of that when it comes to any pilot.
As far as an older aircraft, that is very arbitrary. We are of the opinion that flying on an aircraft that is no older than 10 years old is a good practice.
In conclusion, fly on a newer aircraft, check that the engines are not too close to the hot inspection time or TBO. And be sure that the pilot has enough hours in the aircraft you’re about to fly on. Usually, your broker will do all this for you. Just ask.
Exaggerated Private Jet Safety Concerns
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