Updated May 17, 2022

Commercial vs. General Aviation: What’s the Difference?

Commercial and general aviation have a common goal: to transport cargo or people safely and efficiently from one destination to another. However, there are several differences between commercial and general aviation, and these differences can change how they are investigated and litigated.

Questions about how to approach your aviation accident? Contact an aviation accident attorney who can talk you through your options.

What is the difference between Commercial Aviation and General Aviation?

Nonmilitary flight operations are usually categorized as commercial or general aviation.

Commercial aviation concerns scheduled flights from larger tarmac airports that involve the transportation of passengers or cargo. When you purchase a ticket to fly on a plane, your travel falls into this category. Pilots who fly commercial aircraft are held to higher medical and safety standards, and they are required to hold the appropriate licensure and training before they can operate large commercial planes.

General aviation, on the other hand, includes a wide range of aircraft. All nonscheduled flights that are not operated by commercial airlines or by the military are identified as general aviation. It’s easier to get a license to fly general aviation aircraft, and the safety standards aren’t as quite as high as those for commercial pilots.

What are some Aviation Accident Statistics?

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) collects statistics for all civilian aviation accidents in the United States. They separate their data into three groups: large commercial planes, small commercial planes (fewer than ten passenger seats), and general aviation aircraft.

For large commercial planes:

  • 2015: 0 fatal accidents, 30 total accidents
  • 2014: 0 fatal accidents, 32 total accidents
  • 2013: 2 fatal accidents, 23 total accidents
  • 2012: 0 fatal accidents, 26 total accidents
  • 2011: 0 fatal accidents, 33 total accidents

For small commercial planes:

  • 2015: 1 fatal accident, 4 total accidents
  • 2014: 0 fatal accidents, 3 total accidents
  • 2013: 2 fatal accidents, 6 total accidents
  • 2012: 0 fatal accidents, 3 total accidents
  • 2011: 0 fatal accidents, 4 total accidents

For general aviation aircraft:

  • 2015: 230 fatal accidents, 1210 total accidents
  • 2014: 256 fatal accidents, 1224 total accidents
  • 2013: 222 fatal accidents, 1224 total accidents
  • 2012: 273 fatal accidents, 1472 total accidents
  • 2011: 270 fatal accidents, 1471 total accidents

The NTSB accident data shows a wide disparity between commercial and general aviation accidents: Although commercial plane crashes may cause more deaths and damage, general aircraft incidents are much more common.

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney Today

Two of our attorneys at WKW are licensed pilots with a wide range of ratings and experience. Both pilots hold a commercial license, flight engineer certificate, instrument and multi-engine aircraft ratings as well as flight experience in Boeing 727s and many private aircraft.

If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving any type of aircraft, our legal team and aviation experts can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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