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Holiday travel is in full gear this season, and with massive storms on both the East and West Coast’s this year, even our warm Orange County has seen snow on our local mountains. Weather always seems to be a factor in many accidents involving seasonal travelers, including yesterday’s accident of a Boeing 737 jet.

This Continental jet carrying 112 people skidded off the runway on take-off in Colorado and sent a chill to all prospective air travelers. Fortunately, no one died but 38 passengers had serious personal injuries and were transported to local hospitals. Not quite the joyous holiday news that you need right before you travel!

Air travel by a major U.S. carrier is still statistically the safest way to travel, although when an accident happens, it gets so much media press that we forget it is a safe mode of transportation. In fact, for the last two years (until yesterday), we had had no injuries reported on any U.S. major carrier in 2007-2008. That is impressive since we have over 10 million flights each year. If every personal injury accident involving automobiles were publicized no one would want to drive a car anymore!

In the last two years, The Department of Transportation has spent millions of dollars on new infrastructure projects; new runways, airport facilities and new air traffic control. This should eliminate many of the holiday season bottlenecks of holiday travel.

Although major airlines are enjoying some of their best safety record years ever, this cannot be said for International carrier, military jets and general aviation involving private pilots. Over the last month, Southern California has had a military accident involving 4 wrongful deaths, several “near misses” and a couple general aviation accidents.

If you plan on any international travel over the holidays, check out the safety record of some of the “local airlines”. Many of the international carriers have poor safety records and enticed travelers with low ticket prices. You can access this information by visiting the National Transportation Safety Board’s website at

General aviation, by definition are planes less than 12,500 pounds, have 16 times the fatalities that the general air carriers have. One reason is the experience level of the pilot. In 2005, general aviation had 632 deaths as compared with 40 commercial flights. This is still safer than the almost 43,000 auto accidents!

Takeoffs, landings, and weather, are the most vulnerable segments to general aviation accidents.

Takeoff is the phase of flight that accounts for about 20% of all accidents. It is also the most unforgiving. There is little altitude to maneuver and even less time to analyze a problem if one occurs. Whether it’s mechanical failure or some other factor, it’s essential to have a contingency plan, and this usually comes with experience and knowledge of your aircraft.

Weather is another huge factor in accidents. Weather is not an exact science and can change rapidly when flying in areas such as mountains, deserts and islands. Most accidents occur when the pilot travels too low to avoid the weather above, but the fact is, sometimes the bad weather. This may have been the factor in a Southern California pilot and his passenger this weekend. Sadly, they both were killed.

If you or your family has been injured in an aircraft accident, please don’t hesitate to contact a professional personal injury attorney. Unless there is a full investigation, you will not know whether it was pilot error, weather factors or mechanical malfunction. Get the best attorneys on your side, call Allen, Flatt, Ballidis and Leslie.

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