Aviation Accidents and Charter Flights

Aircraft crashes are relatively uncommon as compared to other forms of transportation accident. The recognition of the serious consequences of lapses in safety have helped to contribute to the general safety of the aviation industry.

Unfortunately, errors and accidents nonetheless occur and, due to the nature of aircraft accidents, those accidents are more likely to result in serious injury or death than are other forms of transportation accidents.

Causes of Aviation Accidents

Common causes of aviation accidents include:

  • Defective Equipment: Equipment that is dangerous or defective due to problems caused by design, age or maintenance.

  • Pilot Error: Errors by the pilot and flight crew.

  • Bad Information: Errors by a flight service station or air traffic controller.

  • Violation of FAA Regulations: Violation of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules and standards in the maintenance and operation of an aircraft.

Depending upon the nature of the error, the parties that may potentially be liable following an aviation accident include manufacturers, maintenance providers, aircraft owners, and operators.

It is possible for more than one party to share fault for an accident, and for an operator whose own error contributes to an accident may potentially recover from other parties due to their own negligent acts or provision of faulty equipment or parts.

Due to the complexity of the legal issues, as well as statutes of limitation and statutes of repose that may apply to causes of action from an aviation accident, people injured in aviation accidents should discuss their right to compensation with a qualified personal injury lawyer, one who has a history of representing clients who have been injured in aviation accidents.

Charter Operations vs. Scheduled Operations

In simple terms, the difference between on-demand charter flights and other flights is:

  • Scheduled Operation: Flights are a form of general transportation, are scheduled and are open to the public. Seats may be individually purchased, with the airliner being responsible for the aircraft, flight and crew.

  • On-Demand Operation (Charters): Charter jets are booked by private groups or individuals, and are selective as to who (if anybody) may purchase tickets. Chartering a flight normally involves purchasing all of the seats on the plane, and arranging either directly or through a service for the fuel, flight crew, flight plan and itinerary, and flight expenses.

Sometimes charter flights do operate in a manner that is similar to scheduled, commercial flights. For example, a charter company might schedule flights in association with a travel service that, in turn, purchases tickets in bulk and then resells them to its clients.

Crew Resource Management and Flight Safety

Errors by flight crews that may contribute to an accident include:

  • Skill-Based Errors: Errors in basic flight skill, including those that result from inattention, and memory issues or confusion with aircraft controls.

  • Decision Errors: Errors in decision-making include procedural errors, the making of poor choices, and errors in problem-solving when issues arise during flight.

  • Rule Violations: Violations ranging from bending the rules or ignoring rules that are perceived as minor, to committing serious violations such as engaging in a prohibited or dangerous maneuver.

  • Errors of Perception: Particularly where information is incomplete or inadequate, such as during nighttime flight or bad weather, an error of perception might result such as a mistake about the altitude, air speed, or descent rate of the aircraft, or distance between the aircraft and another object or obstacle.

Most aircraft accidents result from skill-based errors and decision errors.

CRM Training

In order to minimize errors during flight, in 1995 the FAA mandated that commercial airlines implement Crew Resource Management (CRM) programs, designed to train pilots, flight attendants and other crew members to work together as part of a team.

CRM training must include training about the authority of the captain, communication between crew members, teamwork and workload management, decision-making skills, time management, and the effects of stress and fatigue.

CRM extends beyond the aircraft, covering effective communication and interaction not only between the crew on an aircraft, but also in their interaction with mechanics, flight service stations and air traffic controllers.

CRM for Charter Jets

After some high profile charter jet accidents, the FAA came under pressure to mandate CRM for the charter jet industry. In 2003 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that the FAA adopt rules for CRM for on-demand charters, and the FAA finally implemented a mandate in 2011.

With proper training, CRM can help reduce the chance of a problem or error of aircraft maintenance, and should improve communication such that decision errors are more likely to be corrected, pilots are less likely to trust their senses over information they obtain from their instruments or from a flight service station, and serious rule violations are less likely to occur.

Charters should ensure that they implement sound CRM, and that they address the social issues that may affect the ability of flight crew members to operate as a team.

Copyright © 2016 Aaron Larson, All rights reserved. No portion of this article may be reproduced without the express written permission of the copyright holder. If you use a quotation, excerpt or paraphrase of this article, except as otherwise authorized in writing by the author of the article you must cite this article as a source for your work and include a link back to the original article from any online materials that incorporate or are derived from the content of this article.

This article was last reviewed or amended on Apr 13, 2018.