As big a gun nerd as I am, I’m just as big an airplane nerd. If I weren’t spending all my time blogging about guns, I’d be doing the same thing for airplanes. Which I already kinda do. In my daily trawl for news articles, I came across something from Bloomberg (the news source, not the person) that piqued my interest on both fronts . . .
You see there’s a bit of a mortality issue when it comes to Part 135 operations, which include things like business jets and charters. Those planes are crashing and causing fatal injuries at a much higher rate than Part 121 operators, people like Delta and American, who use pilots with the same level of certification and qualifications. The reason? The smaller operations aren’t following the rules. Stay with me, I promise this is gun related . . .
Since 2000 there have been five times more fatal accidents in the U.S. involving private and chartered corporate planes than airliners. Investigators cited pilot error among the causes of 88 percent of those crashes. Accident records show repeated examples of crews skipping safety checks, working long days, and overlooking hazards such as ice on the wings. In April, NTSB investigators reported the pilots working for billionaire Lewis Katz, who was killed last year when his Gulfstream GIV skidded off a runway, rarely did standard preflight safety checks.
In 2001 a chartered jet crashed in Aspen, Colo., killing 18. According to NTSB reports, the passenger who paid for the flight became irate after learning he might miss an airport curfew. That contributed to the pilot’s decision to try landing despite not being able to see the runway, investigators concluded. Private pilots are subject to the whims of the people who pay them in a way pilots for airlines aren’t, says Stuart Matthews, former president of the Flight Safety Foundation, which promotes better practices among corporate and charter operators. “I was constantly hearing stories of corporate pilots who don’t get enough rest or who are always concerned about being pressured to press on,” he says.
Pre-flight checks are kind of a big deal, something that’s drilled into your head from day one. Every checkride expects you to perform one perfectly before the examiner signs off on your certificate, so at a bare minimum these pilots were aware of the rules and the way things should be done — they just ignored them because it was quicker.
The root cause of these fatal crashes is plain and simple: pilots aren’t following the rules. They know the law, but they choose to ignore it because it’s more convenient. In order to reduce those fatalities, the FAA should have the trouble pilots follow the rules. But how do you get a group of people with little to no oversight or supervision to actually follow the law? Even more regulation, perhaps?
Commercial aviation is regulated by multiple tiers of U.S. law, but privately owned aircraft have almost no oversight. “Nobody’s paying attention,” says Kitty Higgins, who served as an NTSB member from 2006 to 2009. The FAA has begun introducing safety data monitoring for private operations like that used by airlines, but NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart says adding new rules won’t make a difference. “A lot of times we’re talking about people who aren’t following the regulations anyway, so I’m not sure that more regulation is the answer,” he says.
The FAA is an organization based on facts, statistics and results. Even though they’re a government organization just like the ATF, they focus their efforts on things that will provide a measurable reduction to fatalities. They don’t make statements unless they are backed up by facts — completely opposite to the claimed “gun violence epidemic” that the ATF perpetuates and doesn’t exist. And while the ATF has a great track record of killing unarmed women and children and burning them alive, the FAA has had great success improving transportation safety and saving lives.
These two very dissimilar organizations are faced with the exact same challenge: a set of established rules and laws and a group of people who know that what they are doing is against those rules. They both need a way to stop that activity to stop people get killed, but their plan of action couldn’t be more dissimilar. The outgoing ATF chief bemoaned the fact that he couldn’t implement more restrictive gun laws. The FAA doesn’t believe that more laws are the answer.
Getting to the rule breakers takes actual enforcement efforts, not more rules and nother stack of meaningless paper. Why can’t the ATF be more like the FAA?