Pope & Howard, PC

Why Private Helicopters and Planes Are Dangerous

Flying commercially is statistically one of the safest ways to travel, resulting in only one death in 2018, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. However, private planes and helicopters are regularly involved in an outrageous number of crashes, largely due to the looser regulations the Federal Aviation Administration imposes on them.

The aviation accident lawyers at Pope and Howard in Atlanta, GA, want you to be aware of the dangers private air travel presents before you board the aircraft. And if you or a loved one ever becomes a victim of such an accident, you can rely on our experienced legal team for help. Our co-founder, Marc Howard, has a great deal of experience trying aviation accident cases, and is standing by to help you.

Read on for more information about the dangers of flying privately, or contact our team today for a free consultation at our Atlanta, Georgia, office.

Private Planes and Helicopters Fall under the Designation “General Aviation”</h2>

In the Federal Aviation Regulations, the term “general aviation” covers civil aircraft not used for commercial purposes, including private planes and helicopters. General aviation was responsible for approximately 97 percent of aviation fatalities in 2018, the NTSB reports.

General aviation is governed by Part 91 of the regulations, which enforces a lower standard of safety requirements than Parts 135 and 121, governing on-demand charters and commercial airlines, respectively. The discrepancies occur in several areas such as minimum visibility, safety features, and the rigor of pilot certification.

Private Pilots Can Fly When They Can Barely See Ahead

Perhaps the most dangerous example of its leniency, Part 91 grants private pilots the ability to fly in lower-visibility conditions. For instance, it’s possible for a private helicopter to take off when the pilot can only see 1/2 statute mile ahead due to fog or precipitation, but commercial planes always require at least one full mile of visibility. Furthermore, this rule is more easily enforced for commercial aircraft since they generally can’t use airports that lack on-site weather reporting.

Private Pilots Need Less Experience for Certification

The New York Times reports that most general aviation accidents involve some kind of pilot error. This might be due to the fact that it’s easier to become eligible for a private pilot’s license than a commercial one. In fact, a private pilot certificate is a prerequisite to earning a commercial pilot certificate.

For example, a commercial pilot must log 250 hours of flight time in order to obtain a license while a private pilot only needs 40, according to Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, the section that details pilot certification requirements. Less experienced pilots are more likely to err.

A Lack of Safety Features in Private Aircraft

Compared to commercial airplanes, private aircraft generally lack safety features and redundancies, including co-pilots, navigation backup systems, and extra engines and power generators.

In addition, commercial aircraft usually boast advanced flame and smoke detection, ground proximity warning systems, collision sensors, and emergency evacuation slides that double as flotation devices. Private planes and helicopters usually aren’t equipped with such features.

Even your seat is safer on a commercial jet than on a private aircraft. A commercial airline seat better protects you from serious injury on impact because it can sustain 16 times the force of gravity, versus most 9G private jet seats.

Private Helicopters Pose Even More Risks

Under Part 91, the regulations for private helicopters are even more lax than those for private planes. They don’t have to carry as much extra fuel—only 20 minutes worth compared to a plane’s 30-minute reserve, 45 minutes at night—maintain a minimum altitude, or even need a full statute mile of visibility in order to fly. If you’re going to ride in a private helicopter, be aware that your pilot will make decisions based on these standards.

Call Pope and Howard About a Private Plane or Helicopter Accident

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a private plane or helicopter accident, contact Pope and Howard in Atlanta, GA, to talk to us about your case. We will review the details and determine if there’s enough evidence to move forward. We look forward to speaking with you soon! Just call 404-885-9999 to schedule your free consultation.

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