The risks of flying on an illegal jet charter are significant.
Why does it matter if your charter flight is operated by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorized air carrier? All aircraft operators are the same, right? Wrong.
Illegal charters are operated by an entity that is not an FAA authorized air carrier. One of the greatest risks of illegal charter to both the passengers and the aircraft owner is the potential loss of insurance coverage. Imagine having no insurance coverage for an aircraft flight! Aircraft insurance policies often include a clause that nullifies the aircraft and liability insurance if the aircraft is operated in violation of the policy provisions which describe the aircraft use. Violation of this clause could completely invalidate the policy’s coverage, leaving the passengers unprotected!
According to the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), other risks of illegal charters include:
Oversight – The FAA and the Transportation Security Administration have much more oversight of a legal charter operator compared to an illegal operator. This oversight creates a safer, more secure operation.
Accountability – The FAA holds the legal air carrier to a very high standard and has the ability to hold the operation accountable for their actions or omissions.
Training – Pilots of a legal charter operator engage in mandatory, recurring training. Pilots of illegal operations are subjected to less stringent training requirements.
Maintenance – Aircraft used in a legal charter operation must be maintained to strict standards, and only highly trained maintenance personnel may perform maintenance on these aircraft.
Drug and Alcohol Testing – Pilots and mechanics for legal charter operators must undergo pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing. Illegal operators typically do not test their employees at all.
Experience – Legal charter operators require their pilots to have a relatively high level of experience. Specifically, pilots must have at least 1,200 hours of total flight time. Illegal operators do not have to follow these same standards.
Insurance Coverage – In addition to the possible loss of insurance coverage mentioned above, the U.S. Department of Transportation requires a minimum level of insurance coverage in order to obtain an air carrier certificate. Illegal operators may not have adequate insurance to cover injuries or loss of life or property in the case of an accident.
So how do you determine if your charter operator is legal?
If the charter pricing sounds too good to be true, it probably is. According to the NATA, “legal operators incur relatively high overhead costs to maintain the aircraft, train and test crewmembers, and stay compliant with FAA and TSA regulations. Illegal operators are able to offer significantly lower prices, but at much greater risk.”
Ask for the operator’s air carrier certificate number and for verification that the aircraft you will be flying on is listed on that certificate.
Call your local FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and inquire about the operator. The FSDO appropriate for your area can be found at: http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/
Aircraft charter is a fantastic alternative for many businesses and individuals, but doing it safely and legally is in the best interest of the industry and its customers. If you have questions about planning a charter flight, Give Keystone Aviation a call.
By Kimberly Page, © June, 2011.
Ms. Page has worked for Keystone Aviation since 1999 where she serves as Chief Financial Officer and oversees corporate risk assessment. To send questions or comments click here.
DISCLAIMER: Statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, editors and publishers. While care has been taken in the compilation of this article to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur. Keystone Aviation will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within this article.