General Aviation Piper Navajo Crashes in Ft. Lauderdale

General Aviation Piper Navajo Crashes in Ft. Lauderdale


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General Aviation Piper Navajo Crashes in Ft. Lauderdale


Just this week I wrote an article about the safety records of various types of flights.  In that article, I focused on Executive Charter Flights versus Commercial flights in light of the sequester cuts.  But just today, a general aviation aircraft crashed into a parking lot in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida (near Miami) which has the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) taking a closer look at these types of flights.  This makes perfect sense in light of the evidence I reviewed in my previous article, Safety Concerns Paramount With Sequestration.

In that article, I noted that according to data provided by the NBAA (National Business Aviation Association) and  compiled by Robert E. Breiling Associates, Inc, the fatal accident rates for general aviation flights as compared to charter flights is more than 10 times.  There can be little doubt as to the reason–the only flights which do not operate under FAR Part 21 or FAR Part 35 FAA safety inspection standards are general aviation.  These are the same safety standards which Charter Flight Group adheres to as well as most private charter companies.  But one must be careful in selecting a “charter” carrier.  Why?

Like many industries, the flight for hire industry has some who take the maverick route.  I am not saying this was the case in the crash in Ft. Lauderdale, for we simply don’t know at this point.  What we do know is that the crash killed at least three and involved a Piper PA-31 Navajo.  As this particular aircraft can carry up to 8, there exists the possibility that number could be higher, but at this point, we don’t know.    This flight had just taken off from Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport and to be clear, this was not one of the airports slated for the FAA cutbacks in Air Traffic Control towers, so this is not likely to be an issue.  To read more on this, go to How Will Sequestration Impact Air Travel?

To be clear, Piper makes a good aircraft.  But with any aircraft, regular maintenance and safety checks are vital to safe operation.  This is why here at Charter Flight Group, not only do we inspect according to FAA Part 35 regulations, but also employ the services of third party auditors Wyvern and ARG/US.  This ensures that every flight is as safe as possible.

But what often happens, as with any industry, small companies conduct passengers on the sly, avoiding the regulations that do cost a bit more, but make up the difference in safety.  Safe operation always costs less.  Now, I am not saying that this is what happened in this case for we simply don’t have enough information at this point.  What I am saying is that there does exist the very real possibility that many of the general aviation flights in America today occur because someone owns a plane and seeks to make a few extra dollars by providing flights outside the regulatory limits.  This is common in every industry and the private aviation industry is not immune to enterprising persons working on the fringe of legality and safe practices.

What happened in Ft. Lauderdale today is certainly tragic and we wish the families involved in this well.  The next few weeks are going to be very rough for at least several families.  Some lost property while others lost loved ones.  Also during this time there will be the usual finger-pointing and investigations which will add further to the stress many are now feeling.  Understand that I did not raise the issues I mention in this article to blame anyone or cause distress.  I simply felt I had an obligation to mention that we do have problems in America with general aviation aircraft largely because of the lax safety regulations and I hope that anyone considering saving a few dollars by taking a substandard carrier will reconsider–the price is not worth the cost.

Hopefully we’ll know soon what caused the accident in Ft. Lauderdale so that the families can begin to get closure and perhaps more can be done to prevent such accidents in the future.


interior of the piper navajo
Interior of the Piper PA-31 Navajo. The plane can hold up to 8.



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