Peter V. Agur Jr.

Chairman and Founder, The VanAllen Group


When it comes to aviation services and products, the words cheap and safe are often mutually exclusive. I have had clients tell me that because commercial aviation services are overseen by the FAA, they must be safe. Not so. Compliance with regulations on one day does not guarantee safe performance on another.

Consider how many public figures have lost their lives in charter-aircraft crashes. Many of those flights were connected with low-cost providers.

Charter services often are purchased as commodities. They are aggressively shopped via the Internet and by phone, and the operator with the lowest cost basis can charge the lowest prices. But cost cutting can affect safety.

You don’t look for the lowest-cost hospital, doctor, or medical technology when it comes to your health. Why would you accept the cheapest plane, pilot, or operator when you are going into dark and stormy skies?

Some aircraft owners will spend millions on their plane but push hard to save thousands on its operation. For example, they may shave staffing and training costs by hiring only one pilot and using contract pilots for the other seat. History shows that 70 percent of aircraft accidents are crew-performance sourced. Personally, I would invest in the best pilots and the best training that I can.

As a Robb Report reader, you have two exposures to the risks I am addressing: You may be tempted to go down the cheap-aviation path on your own out of trust and ignorance, or you may be a guest on an aircraft of someone who shops for the lowest price. Whether you are buying, renting, or borrowing aviation services, for safety’s sake, don’t go cheap.