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May 10, 2011

Illegal Charter Flight Warning

Stratos Jet Charters Warns Travelers About Illegal Charter Flight

In recent air charter news, the European Business Aviation Administration (EBAA) has launched a campaign to curb illegal charter flight activity in Europe.  Stratos Jet Charters is a member of the prestigious Air Charter Association of North America (ACANA), which distinguishes our company as one of the finest and most reputable charter service providers in the private aviation industry.  As a member of ACANA, we believe it is our responsibility to help the EBAA promote safe and legal charter flight operations in North America.  In the following article, we would like to take this opportunity to discuss the issue of illegal charter flights, and the different ways you can protect yourself and your family from the threat of illegal charter operators.

 In light of the recent economic recession, we understand that many aircraft owners are looking for ways to offset the high cost and expense of aircraft ownership, just as air charter consumers are searching for lower-cost options for private jet travel.  But, before you set out to book a “discounted” charter flight from a small brokerage firm or operator, consider this: what price would you pay to ensure your personal safety?

 Let’s assume that you were offered a stellar deal on your next charter flight by an unknown charter brokerage or operator.  Initially, you might be pleased to find the pricing to be much lower than that of several long-standing and reputable charter brokers.  Wouldn’t you be foolish not to go with the lowest-priced flight?  Well, what if we told you that the aircraft you will be flying in wasn’t inspected according to FAA regulations, or that the flight crew wasn’t type-rated to fly the aircraft?  What if we told you that your charter flight was illegal?

 The safety issues caused by illegal charter flights has long plagued the air charter industry.  According to the EBAA, a large number of air charter consumers unknowingly purchase illegal charter flights each year.  An “illegal charter flight” occurs when a Part 91 aircraft owner conducts a charter flight under the guise of a fully-licensed Part 135 aircraft operator.  Illegal charter flights pose significant safety risks to air charter consumers, which is why it is our goal to teach you about the possibility of illegal charter flight operations.  Keep in mind that the goal of this article is not to frighten you, but to help you identify the signs of an illegal charter flight and the ways you can protect yourself and your family.

 Aircraft owners who conduct illegal charter flight operations do so at great expense to consumer safety.  Here’s why - illegal charter flights violate Part 135 Federal Aviation Administration Regulations (FARs), which specifically require aircraft operators to hold a “Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate.”  An air carrier certificate is only granted to aircraft operators that show “sufficient financial strength and compliance with other legal requirements, including proof of proper insurance coverage,” according to the National Business Aviation Administration (NBAA). 

 The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration requires aircraft operators to adhere to all Part 135 regulations, which spell out the necessary criteria for conducting a safe and legal operation.  Under these requirements, aircraft operators are subject to many regulations regarding  aircraft maintenance, flight crew experience, pilot training and insurance requirements.  Outright aircraft owners, on the other hand, adhere to a separate set of rules and regulations, known as Part 91 regulations, which are far less restictive than Part 135 regulations. 

 So what do the FARs have to do with air charter safety?  Well, everything.  First, you need to know that the FAA makes an important distinction between aircraft owners and aircraft operators.  As a rule, aircraft operators are held to much higher safety standards than owners because they are “certificate-holding entities,” rather than “self-interested parties.”   As such, aircraft operators must adhere to more rigorous operational and maintenance requirements.  In addition, aircraft operators are subject to routine audits, such as performance audits, flight reviews, pilot training and safety checks, to verify their compliance with FAA safety standards.  Meanwhile, aircraft owners are given more freedom to establish their own safety procedures and protocols.

Since certified aircraft operators adhere to much higher safety standards, they encumber the costs of maintaining their aircraft and flight crew at peak safety levels.  Oftentimes, these additional costs are factored into the price of your charter flight.  Illegal charter operators don’t operate in accordance with Part 135 regulations, which is why they can offer significantly lower pricing on charter flights.  Illegal charter operators create an un-level playing field and put consumer safety and confidence at risk.  Consider it an investment toward your safety when you work with a reputable charter broker or operator.

 So, how do you know that your private charter is legal?  It’s not always easy to identify an illegal operator from a legitimate one.  The first step is to ask some basic questions about the aircraft operator.  Ask your charter broker for the operator’s certificate number or read up on the operator through the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) at http:///www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/.  This information will help to ensure that your charter operator meets with all the necessary criteria for conducting a safe charter flight.  If your charter broker is unable or unwilling to provide you with a copy of the operator’s air carrier certificate, it’s safe to assume that your charter flight is illegal.  Any legitimate charter broker or operator should be more than happy to provide you with a copy of the operator’s Part 135 certificate.  If you are asked to pay the pilots separately, this is a major red flag.

Next, ask your charter broker to provide you with a copy of the operator’s D085 (aircraft spec sheet).  This important document will list every aircraft that is approved for service in that operator’s fleet.  The aircraft listed on the D085 have been found by the FAA to meet with aircraft inspection, maintenance and insurance requirements.  You should receive the tail number of your charter aircraft at least 24 hours in advance of your flight.  Check to make sure that your aircraft’s specific tail number is listed on the D085 as apart of that operator’s fleet.

Now that you know how to identify a legal charter operator, the next step is to find a safe and legal operator to conduct your next charter flight.  The Stratos Jets’ Approved Vendor Program enables our company to work with the safest and most reputable charter operators in the air charter industry.  Through our approved vendor program, we do our due-diligence to ensure that your charter flight is safe and legal.  All of our approved vendors are fully-licensed Part 135 operators that adhere to FAR regulations, along with our own rigorous safety standards.  We keep updated records on all our approved vendors, and can easily provide you with a copy of the operator’s air carrier certificate, D085, and/or insurance standards upon request.  We won’t send you a quote on an aircraft that hasn’t been fully-vetted on the front end.  By working with Stratos Jets, you can rest assured that your charter flight meets or exceeds with the highest safety expectations in the industry.

As an air charter consumer, remember that you have a right to ask these important questions to ensure your personal safety on every charter flight.  If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact a Stratos Jets representative at any time.  Our air charter agents are both experienced and knowledgeable, and place a special emphasis on air charter safety.  Our goal is to help you find the safest and most well-maintained aircraft that can meet your personal travel needs for each and every flight.

Posted by Jo Wilson on May 10, 2011 at 04:41 PM in Lodging, Transportation | Permalink

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