Jan. 14, 2020

The FAA recently cautioned pilots and passengers about illegal charter operations, primarily those conducted through individual pilots or a group of pilots soliciting flights for payment of web-based applications. The warning comes shortly after an FAA letter to Blackbird Air, a company which created such an application to connect passengers with pilots.

“Some pilots might not fully understand the rules regarding compensation or payment,” said Kent Jackson, partner and founder of JetLaw. “A commercial rating allows a pilot to accept compensation but does not allow that pilot to ‘hold out’ to or solicit the public. Only Part 119 entities may advertise and solicit air transportation for compensation or hire.”

Pilots participating in schemes like Blackbird Air may find themselves in trouble with the FAA and could even learn their airman certificate and livelihood is at risk.

The FAA also cautioned passengers to bypass these types of scenarios and verify their air transportation provider is authorized by the FAA to conduct commercial operations. A current list of FAA-licensed Part 135 charter operators is available on the FAA’s website.

Pilots flying for FAA-authorized charter operators participate in mandatory drug and alcohol testing and are required to complete extra training. Further, the aircraft used in FAA-authorized Part 135 operations are maintained to a higher minimum standard.

“Uneducated or new charter passengers are often driven by price, and illegal charter operations typically cost less – sometimes much less – than flights with operators who are authorized by the FAA and bear the extra costs of full compliance with higher standards set for commercial operations,” said Jackson. “Passengers don’t always know the cost of a cheap flight – proper regulatory oversight, additional pilot training and other factors that contribute to a safe flight.”

Flight department managers and others involved in choosing their organization’s primary or supplemental lift are encouraged to verify their charter operators are authorized by the FAA and conduct appropriate due diligence.