March 19, 2020

A recent emergency order revoking the Part 125 operating certificate of a Dallas, TX-based company highlights the ongoing need for vigilance against illegal charter operators throughout the industry, as well as the importance of following the limitations of a company’s operating certificate.

According to the FAA, the operator was cited for “allegedly conducting dozens of unauthorized charter flights using unqualified pilots and when it lacked required air carrier management and safety personnel.” The flights in question took place between June 2013 and March 2018 on Boeing 757 and 737 aircraft, and in some cases involved contracts to transport players for national sports teams.

Part 125 certification allows private, non-commercial carriage flights for clients in transport category aircraft. However, the FAA alleges the company operated for-hire charter flights that may only be conducted under the stricter training and safety requirements of Part 135, and that it claimed some of the 34 flights in question were conducted for demonstration purposes to prospective buyers, when the actual purpose was paid charter transportation.

“This latest example demonstrates the FAA has substantially increased its resources dedicated to combating illegal charter operations,” said Brian Koester, NBAA director of flight operations and regulations. “We must remain vigilant against such operations that undermine the safety and security of our industry.”

Koester further noted that Part 125 operations also have different, less stringent insurance requirements, and they are not required to have specific common-carriage-operations personnel, including directors of safety, maintenance and operations, and a chief pilot and chief inspector.

“The potential consequences of performing an illegal charter operation are severe not only for operators, but also their passengers,” he added. “It is imperative that both sides perform their respective due diligence in determining the legality of a given flight and to report any suspected illegal charter operation to authorities.”

Charter customers may verify an operator’s authorization to conduct commercial flights in a specific aircraft by visiting the FAA’s website, and by asking the provider for a copy of its air carrier certificate. Refusal to provide this information may be an indication of an illegal charter operation.

NBAA also provides several resources to assist passengers and operators in determining what is allowed under different operating certificates and letters of deviation authority, including the association’s Guide to Selling Charter by The Seat and its Air Charter Consumer Guide. View NBAA’s charter resources.

The Air Charter Safety Foundation also manages an illegal charter hotline on behalf of the FAA at 888-SKY-FLT1.