For a long time, I also had that fear because of the size of the plane and the perception it was unsafe. However, things changed after I started dating a pilot three years ago and the opportunity to fly became a regular part of my life.
While I was scared the first time I flew with him, my nerves quickly relaxed as he showed me that flying in a tiny plane can actually be a really fun and unique experience.
There are several commercial, charter, and tour operators that fly smaller planes, like Cape Air …
… Tradewind Aviation …
… and K2 Aviation in Alaska.
The plane I’ve mostly flown on is a Piper Warrior, which has two seats in the front behind the controls and two passenger seats in the back.
Although, I’ve also ridden on De Havilland Otters, De Havilland Beavers, and Piper Navajos.
Having flown on both large commercial jets and small turboprops, I have experienced the difference firsthand. Personally, I’ve come to enjoy tiny planes more than jets for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, I love being immersed in the pilot side of the operation. When flying in the small Piper plane with my boyfriend or on a flightseeing tour over Alaska, I got to wear a headset and hear air traffic control (ATC).
I was able to listen to the communication between my pilot and the controllers, as well as hear other pilots in the area. It gave me a real sense of everything that goes on during a flight, and I learned more about traffic patterns and airport movement than I ever would on a commercial airliner.
The open cockpit concept on many smaller planes not only gives passengers an opportunity to listen in on ATC, but it also allows them to see the inputs and actions of the pilots.
While I’ve never actually wanted to be a pilot, I’ve always been fascinated with everything that goes into flying a plane. On the small aircraft I’ve flown on, I got to see the control panel at the front of the plane, like flight speed and altitude, as well as see how the crew changed the flap settings.
An open cockpit also sometimes provides a perfect view of the runway ahead, so passengers can see the takeoff and landing from a new perspective.
Not to mention, flying in a small aircraft typically means cruising at lower altitudes, so travelers get the opportunity to observe unique landscapes and scenery they may miss flying on a commercial jet. I’ve been lucky to fly over Denali National Park …
… along the New York City skyline …
… and to view the New England fall foliage from the air.
While there are a lot of pros to flying on small planes, there are some downsides.
For me, the biggest challenge is getting in and out of smaller aircraft. Unlike the full-size boarding doors on airliners, many tiny planes have narrow doors that require passengers to crouch to enter. However, once inside, the plane can feel just as roomy as an airline.
The seats are typically padded and comfortable, and the small planes I’ve flown on offered plenty of legroom, though I am only 5’3″ and rarely have issues fitting in any aircraft seat. So, it’s possible some people could experience claustrophobia in the smaller cabin, and those over six feet tall may feel cramped.
Though some people are concerned about the comfort level of a tiny plane, others are more concerned with safety.
While it is true that the accident rate among small planes is higher than airlines, you are still more likely to be injured en route to the airport than traveling in a tiny aircraft, according to Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StretegivAero Research.
“The size of the airplane is not in any way linked to safety,” Ahmad told The Telegraph. “Rather it’s all down to the regular maintenance regimes to ensure that airplanes comply with regulations to fly and operate safely.”