7 Charter QuestionsOctober 7, 2015
Seven Sensible Questions to Ask When Arranging Private Jet Charter
People seeking to charter an aircraft, often rely on their own research or a Charter Broker’s expertise to evaluate the many charter aircraft and services available to them. Private jet users expect that, at a minimum, aircraft available for charter are in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety regulations. However, just like any other industry, not all charter operators deliver the same standards of safety and professionalism. To assist charter customers to identify the most competent operators, the charter industry has established a set of qualifications and operating metrics. Listed here are a handful of sensible questions, adapted from the NBAA Aircraft Charter Consumer Guide, which will assist to expose the professionalism of the operator and their commitment to operate safe equipment.
1) How long has the Operator or Broker been in business?
Experience is an important attribute in the aviation industry. An experienced organization will demonstrate and command a more competent understanding of FAA safety regulations as well as the myriad of logistics involved with conducting safe and efficient missions.
2) Who has “operational control” of the aircraft?
Charter Operators and Charter Brokers can easily be mistaken for one another. Understanding the difference will help provide clarity about who is doing what throughout the charter experience. Charter Operators have operational control – Charter Brokers do not.
A Charter Operator directly manages, maintains, and crews aircraft made available for charter. To be an operator, an individual or organization must earn an operating certificate issued by the FAA. It is a rigorous process designed to provide a reliable operational standard of safety. Charter operators are required to continuously engage with the FAA having every aircraft and pilot approved before an aircraft is made available for charter. Whether a trip is arranged through a Charter Broker or directly with an Operator, if it’s a legitimate, legal charter, the flight will be delivered on a Charter Operator’s aircraft – and the Charter Operator will have “operational control”.
A Charter Broker matches their customer’s travel requirements using the available charter aircraft provided by the licensed Charter Operators. The Charter Broker serves as a “finder”, providing a value-added service for their customers by screening charter operators, identifying qualified aircraft and crew, and making recommendations to their customer. Some Charter Brokers will also act as an agent on behalf of their client, to negotiate and finalize the arrangements/agreements for their customer’s flights.
3) What is the safety record of the company?
When selecting a charter operator, it is prudent to research the audit history and ratings of the charter operator. Audit ratings may be found by contacting the charter operator or through third party safety auditors, e.g., International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF), Aviation Research Group U.S. (ARG/US), and Wyvern. Most brokers and operators will provide an ARG/US Trip CHEQ report or a Wyvern Pass report showing that the flight has met industry standards. Links to these audit organizations may be found via www.nbaa.org/charter.
In general, all accidents and certain incidents must be reported immediately to the nearest National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) office. Enforcement action can be taken against the operator if notification is not made in a timely manner.
An Accident is defined by the FAA as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.
An Incident is defined as “an occurrence involving one or more aircraft in which a hazard or a potential hazard to safety is involved but not classified as an accident due to the degree of injury and/or extent of damage.” An incident could affect the safety of operations. This definition covers a broad range of events and may include runway incursions, pilot deviations and near midair collisions.
When evaluating the safety record of a Charter Operator, consideration should be given to operator’s fleet size and number of years in business.
4) Has the Operator (or Broker) been listed in any lawsuits or are they currently in litigation?
The past business history of any company can provide valuable insight into the way in which they conduct business. Legal remedies are available for businesses to resolve difficult issues, however, companies with a track record of lawsuits and litigation justify closer scrutiny.
5) What experience do the pilots who will be flying the jet have?
Pilots for a legal charter operator must have at least 1,200 hours of total flight time. It is reasonable to ask the total flight hours of the crew and, perhaps more importantly, how many hours each crew member has in the specific make/model of the aircraft to be chartered. Industry auditors have recommendations about experience levels to look for with an aircraft crew. In addition, it’s helpful to know crew experience when comparing one operator to another.
6) How much liability insurance is carried on the jet?
An accepted industry norm for prospective jet charter clients is a minimum limit of $50 million ($50,000,000) combined single limit, bodily injury to passengers and property damage liability. However, more or less insurance coverage may be appropriate depending on your needs and the charter operator
7) Ask for an all-inclusive price quote?
Pricing a private charter trip can be made very simple by asking for an “all-in” price. Many operators will quote a net aircraft price or estimated price. Upon the completion of the trip they will add in pilot fees, stand-by time, holding pattern or diversion times, parking and ramp charges, landing fees, fuel surcharges, segment fees and a 7.5 percent federal excise tax. An all-in quote divided by the quoted hourly flight time will allow for clear comparison information between various quotes.
By asking these questions, you do more than ensure your safety; you learn more about the professionalism of the Charter Operator or the Charter Broker.