Part 91 Operators – Record High Fatalities in 2019


For 2019 Part 91 fatalities exceeded Part 135 by a wide margin, what does training have to do with it?

A few months ago I read an article about the disturbing record number of fatalities for Part 91 business aviation in 2019 (record high, just to be clear). It was even more disturbing because the type of flying I do is Part 91 business aviation. The article also stated that there were no fatalities in the charter world of 135. None. Zero. Not one. Could this be related to the differences in pilot training? Or maybe a difference in attitude?

When I transitioned from Part 135 flying to Part 91, I can’t tell you how happy I was to be able to relax, if even just a little. The training was more relaxed, the checkrides were more relaxed, the preflights and flight planning were more relaxed. Life was good. My previous 135 job had been very stressful – my schedule was all over the place, the FAA was always hovering nearby, the phone would ring at all hours of the night, checkrides were day-long events. When I was offered the 91 gig, I jumped on it.

I had every intention of maintaining my professional pilot persona. I intended to continue to study just as hard, complete every checklist, know the regs inside and out, ace every checkride. My goal was to be the same person, even the same pilot, just without the constant companionship of the F double A. 

But a funny thing happened on my way to life as a Part 91 pilot. I didn’t remain the same person. As much as I wanted to, I changed. I relaxed more than just a little. Training events weren’t the same. And it wasn’t just me. Even the instructors were less edgy when they saw 91 on my training folder. The checkrides were, dare I say, easier? The callouts lost a little of their sharpness, SOP’s were not drilled into us. And as a result, my flying lost a little of its sharpness. 

As much as I did not enjoy flying Part 135, I must admit, I was a sharper pilot. I guess I tried harder and was a little more nervous about getting “caught” missing something. When I switched to 91, it’s possible that I didn’t try as hard in pilot training and maybe that transferred over to real life. I’m going to have to rethink what kind of pilot I want to be. Maybe we all should.

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