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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 18:11 GMT
Private jets' popularity grows
crash scene
Five people died in the a Canadair Challenger crash
Private jets, such as the Challenger which crashed in Birmingham, have proved a popular alternative to first-class business travel on large airliners.

The use of smaller jets by businesses has spiralled in recent years and seen an upsurge since the 11 September terror attacks.

Larger firms believe it can be a cost-effective alternative to buying a number of first-class tickets.

The use of private jets has also been seen as safer than travelling on scheduled flights since September.

Two passengers and three crew died after a Canadair Challenger private jet crashed at the airport at 1210 GMT on Friday.

The Challenger hasn't got a bad safety record at all

Tony Dixon, editor of Airliner World
Tony Dixon, editor of top-selling aviation magazine Airliner World, told BBC News Online that smaller jets such as the Challenger have a good safety record.

"I cannot think of one that has crashed recently.

"Business jets in general have a reasonably good safety record because they tend to operate out of smaller airfields.

"Certainly the Challenger hasn't got a bad safety record at all."

Although it is unclear whether the jet was privately-owned or chartered, Mr Dixon said more firms had been hiring private jets.

Worldwide popularity

"In the last four or five years it has probably trebled or quadrupled.

"Larger companies are beginning to think it is a very good idea.

Challenger cabin
The plush cabin of a Challenger
"It is like hiring a chaffeur-driven car for the day and it is one of those things that has caught on worldwide.

"There was talk of a growth in its use after 11 September."

Many major city airports are some distance from centres and private jets can fly into smaller airfields, cutting down the overland travel for business people.

"Why would you want to go for business with a 50-mile journey at either end?," said Mr Dixon.

The Canadair Challenger is capable of a range of 4,300 miles and can seat up to nine passengers.

Canadair is a subsidiary of giant Canadian transport company Bombardier, which is also the parent company of Northern Ireland plane-makers Shorts.

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

04 Jan 02 | England
Five die in jet crash
15 Nov 01 | Business
Business demand for air taxis
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