When you fly, are you safe?
While flying commercial, you are typically bombarded with various advertising and video, some of which explain the safety rules and regulations of the aircraft. Frequent fliers and the media-savvy travelers may be aware of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the statistics it compiles every year on the safety of flying, however, if you fly private, do you know the safety rating(s) of your jet charter/management company?
If your first thought was to Google safety records, you might have been met with surprising statistics and stories riddled with shock value. The truth is, the United States has one of the best records in aviation safety worldwide, both commercial and private. The U.S. is reviewed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations set to ensure safe and orderly growth of international air transportation.
Despite that, there is still a significant difference in ratings between each charter company.
This difference is why safety comes first at Mira Vista Aviation, a boutique jet charter and management company out of Los Angeles specializing in large-cabin jets. Mira Vista Aviation’s Director of Operations, Stephen Tary, leads the helm at organizing both biennial and annual audits of the company’s safety practices. He welcomes both mandatory and selected auditing by third party companies. The latter decision is what puts Mira Vista above the rest.
Annually, Mira Vista Aviation is reviewed by the FAA, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FAA Anti-Drug & Alcohol Abatement Division, and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). This examination is the same for the other 2,000+ U.S. charter operators recognized by the FAA. However, less than 5 percent of operators worldwide seek third-party review. Meaning, very few companies opt in to having someone else affirm their safety standards.
Mira Vista spends between 12,000 to $25,000 on each private audit according to Tary. The three main accreditations Mira Vista Aviation prides itself on are ARGUS Platinum, Wyvern Wingman Operator and IS-BAO Stage 2. While the cost to earn these ratings is high, obtaining them is priceless. Touting such validations give Mira Vista Aviation the well-deserved recognition at home and abroad. It also conveys to passengers that the company they fly with is one to be trusted and has a clean track record substantiated by each independent auditing company.
Time for a real, “how-to,” lesson by Director of Operations and American Airlines pilot Stephen Tary. Below, Tary explains a few tricks of the trade for those looking to fly safe and dives deeper into just what each safety rating means.
Mira Vista: We have three major accreditations from the auditors reviewing our safety practices. What exactly does each mean?
Tary: “ARGUS International developed a safety and quality standard to be the most accurate and detailed third-party audit. Mira Vista Aviation is rated ARGUS Platinum; the highest level that can be achieved within the ARGUS rating system. The Platinum rating requires attention to detail, a well-developed Safety Management System, effective policies and procedures, and documented records for all major aspects of operations and maintenance; there are only about 150 worldwide ARGUS Platinum operators.
“In 1991, Wyvern created the first Wingman Standard. Operators must meet the highest standards through a rigorous audit for safety and quality with regard to the crew, aircraft, maintenance and operator safety. Wyvern also sets strict minimum pilot hour requirements for both pilots. Mira Vista Aviation has gone the extra mile in safety and quality and is a certified Wyvern Wingman Operator.
“In 2002, the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) created the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), which is the universally accepted safety standard for business aviation around the world and endorsed by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). Mira Vista Aviation is registered IS-BAO Stage 2, which indicates an advanced and well-established safety culture.”
Mira Vista: Does paying more for a flight mean better safety standards?
Tary: “Yes and no, ‘price is what you pay, value is what you get’ (Warren Buffet). The value offered by increasing safety and quality is priceless when considering chronic unease of choosing the cheapest option. Safety and quality cannot be compromised; however, price is always a factor. It is best to choose an operator based on their commitment to safety, quality and service, and then seek the size of aircraft that conforms with budgetary and flight needs.”
Mira Vista: Safety standards are not the same abroad. What parts of the world are most similar to the U.S. standards?
Tary: “Safety standards are not the same abroad because each country specifies their own aviation rules and regulations in the same way that driving laws or national holidays may be different around the world. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), intent is to create uniformity among all worldwide aviation communities. However, it is up to the country to enforce their rules. Most countries are similar to US standards; however, every county is different and creates its own rules and regulations specific to their airspace; some countries fail safety inspections.
For example, in 2014, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) representing the Indian Civil Aviation, was downgraded to a Category 2 Safety Ranking which means that India’s Civil Aviation authority does not comply with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards; this restricted Indian carrier’s operations. Currently, five countries do not comply with ICAO safety requirements.”
Mira Vista: Some of the more recent tragedies in private air travel come from smaller commuter jets taking guests from one location to another nearby place during their holiday abroad. Is it worth it for these guests to keep their original charter at their destination for these small trips? Alternatively, is it worth worrying about at all?
Tary: “It depends. Every holiday travel plan requires detailed and specialized travel planning which requires a thoughtful and knowledgeable Concierge travel planner who understands the client’s needs and operational requirements to make the holiday travel plans successful. For example, while snow skiing and spending the holiday in Aspen, Colorado with family, someone suggests a relaxing evening at Glenwood Hot Springs which is near Eagle, Colorado or Rifle, Colorado airport. The Concierge travel planner can determine if it is better to fly about 15 minutes or utilize a car and driver for a one-hour drive. At Mira Vista, we can help identify these risks or needs.”
Mira Vista: One article we read suggested Googling the company you use to fly. While I’m sure news would turn up, do you think that would suffice or would you recommend using an air charter guide, or the like?
Tary: “Using a search engine or a specialized resource such as an air charter guide are both fantastic ways to find companies, but they only give a small segment of the total available information. I suggest using all available resources and relying on the certificates of independent third-party auditors. Some of the important information to research includes - Are they fully licensed? What type of aircraft do they operate? Are they a worldwide operator? Do they participate in independent third-party audits? What safety ratings do they have?”
Mira Vista: When booking an aircraft what safety records are readily available for the passengers?
Tary: “Safety records widely vary that are readily available for passengers when booking. Past safety records can always be obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Flight Standards Service in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; however, a better measure of a company’s current operations are regulatory approvals and compliance, and a certificate obtained from independent third-party audits.
A report prepared for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by an independent adviser to global air transportation (GRA, Inc.) found that ‘… there currently is no evidence in accident data that would support the ranking of individual airlines based on their safety records….While there may be apparent differences in carrier safety records at any particular time, due largely to the infrequent but catastrophic nature of an air accident, there is no evidence that such distinctions persist nor that they are predictive of future safety performance. Rankings of airlines based on past accident records, therefore, provide no information to consumers seeking to make safety-enhancing comparisons for current or future travel choices.’ A better measure of a company’s current performance is their current commitment to safety and quality.”
Mira Vista: Would you have any advice on what a passenger could look out for when boarding or booking? Positive or negative.
Tary: “When boarding or booking your next charter, look for an FAA approved, worldwide charter operator that has multiple certificates from independent third-party auditors such as ARGUS, Wyvern or IS-BAO certification. Always ask many questions about your charter, such as if the company has had previous experience with your type of trip, or previous experience operating to that airport. Never book with a company that does not have an FAA Part 135 charter license or a charter license for that country, if international. Developing a personal relationship with a Concierge travel professional will ensure that your travel wishes are assured.”