When you charter a private jet, you’ve probably seen a reference to FAR Part 135. Here’s what you need to know
Understand why the price of private jet charters can vary so much
– Part 135 (charter) operational requirements are considerably different than Part 91 (full ownership) with much more stringent regulatory safety requirements
– There are over 2,000 Part 135 Charter Operators and four different categories impacting landing in low visibility as well as the ability to find replacement aircraft if there are mechanicals or pilots if one gets sick or runs out of duty time
When you book a private jet charter flight or are shopping for a jet card, you probably have seen at the bottom of various websites, wording that goes something like this: “Company X arranges flights on behalf of its cardholders and charter clients with FAR Part 135 air carriers that exercise full operational control of charter flights at all times. Flights will be operated by FAR Part 135 direct air carriers that have been certified to provide service for Company X clients that meet all FAA safety standards.”
So what is FAR Part 135?
First of all, FAR stands for Federal Aviation Regulations. In case you are wondering, the FARs are divided into “tens of thousands of separate sections.”
For trivia’s sake, Part 142 deals with Training Centers, Part 145 covers Repair Stations, Part 105 is for Parachute Operations, and Part 107 is for Small Unmanned Aircraft.
Regarding the companies who operate the aircraft you charter, Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 135 or 14 CRF Part 135 Air Carrier and Operating Certification is how it’s officially described by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In terms of on-demand operations, which covers both when you book a single trip or when you buy charter via a jet card membership, it stipulates only airplanes that have a passenger seating configuration of 30 seats or less, a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds, or in any rotorcraft.
Keep in mind that’s different from maximum takeoff weight, which is what is used to classify jet size, for example, light jets, midsize jets, etc.
Are there different types of Part 135 operators?
According to the FAA, there are four different scopes of Part 135 operations, and which type your operator falls under can have an impact, a good reason to have a good broker, if you go the on-demand route.
There are four different scopes of Part 135 operators, and which one you choose can impact delays, cancelations and diversionsAnalysis by Private Jet Card Comparisons
When you buy a jet card, the company should be sourcing aircraft the meet the missions you will be flying. All jet cards publish the criteria for the aircraft they use – in some cases the FAA standards or in many cases higher standards.
Part 135 Single Pilot
A single-pilot operator is a certificate holder that is limited to using only one pilot for all part 135 operations. That specific pilot is listed by name and certificate number on the FAA issued Operations Specification.
The use of any pilot(s) other than the single pilot listed is not authorized. In general, the regulations do not require a single-pilot operator to develop and maintain manuals or training programs, designate a Director of Operations, Chief Pilot, or a Director of Maintenance.
However, they are required to designate the management officials responsible for operational control and to provide a Hazardous Materials (HazMat) training program.
Part 135 Single Pilot in Command
A single Pilot In Command (PIC) operator is a certificate holder that is limited to using only one PIC and up to a maximum of three Second In Command (SIC) pilots for all part 135 operations. The PIC and the SIC(s) are listed by name and certificate number.
The certificate holder is only authorized to use those pilots in the specific duty positions listed. The certificate holder is not authorized to use any other pilots, nor are any pilots allowed to serve in a duty position (PIC or SIC), unless they are listed in that duty position.
Certain categories of Part 135 operators are not permitted to make Category II or Category III approaches meaning a higher chance you will have to divert in low-visibility conditions, including fogFAA Part 135 restrictions
Single PIC certificate holders have limitations on the size of aircraft and the scope of operations that are allowed, which include: Aircraft are limited to those type certificated with 9 passenger seats or less;
Operations are limited to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean; No Category II or Category III instrument approach operations are allowed, and although required by regulation, deviations can be granted for a required manual, training programs, and certain management positions.
Part 135 Basic
A Part 135 Basic operator is a certificate holder whose operation is also limited in the size and scope of their operations. They have the following limitations: Maximum of five pilots, including SIC’s; Maximum of 5 aircraft can be used in their operation; Maximum of three different types of aircraft can be used; Aircraft are limited to those type certificated with 9 passenger seats or less; Operations are limited to the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean; No Category II or Category III instrument approach operations are allowed; and Part 135 Basic operators are required to develop and maintain manuals, training programs, and have the required management positions.
However, due to the limited size and scope of these certificate holders, specifically limited deviations to those requirements may be authorized by the FAA.
Standard Part 135
A standard part 135 operator is a certificate holder that does not have pre-set limits on the available size or scope of their operations. The applicant must apply, qualify, and be granted FAA authorization thru OpSpecs for each type of operation they wish to conduct. Standard Part 135 operators are required to develop and maintain manuals, training programs, and have the required management positions.
Does it matter which of these Part 135 operators is flying me?
The answer is yes.
Smaller operators with fewer pilots and fewer airplanes mean more challenges if there is a mechanical or a pilot gets sick. If you are booking an on-demand charter, unless your broker is covering you, you would have to pay the difference in pricing for a last-minute re-quote. You may also be in the position of having to pay for the new flight while waiting for a refund.
If you are buying a jet card, check on the service recovery policy of your card program. Most jet cards offer service recovery but may have different terms. Read the fine print.
With Standard Part 135 and Basic Part 135, and single-pilot operators you are limited on the number of pilots that can be employed by the operator, so if a pilot gets sick, the ability to recover the trip may be impacted.
Also, not being able to perform Category II and III approaches limits your ability to land in poor visibility, meaning a higher likelihood you will have to divert.
Do Part 135 pilots have rest requirements?
Yes. Pilots are required to have 10 hours of perpetual rest, which means they can’t be expected to take calls related to operations or handle paperwork during that period.
For the consumer, this again favors bigger operators who are in a better position to have qualified pilots available duty rest requirements would have forced delaying your flight.
Is there a limit for Duty Time of Part 135 pilots?
There are variations, but generally, an operator cannot schedule a crew for more than 14 hours. It can be less if weekly, monthly and quarterly flying limits will be exceeded.
However, looking at the 14-hour window from the customer’s perspective, that means you need to have completed your flying within the period.
If your schedule doesn’t permit you to complete your travels for the day within 14 hours, the operator would need to source a second crew or in some cases, a second aircraft would be required. This will add to your cost.
If your schedule doesn’t permit you to complete your travels for the day within 14 hours, the operator would need to source a second crew or in some cases, a second aircraft would be required. This will add to your cost.Part 135 rules on pilot duty limits
If you are buying a jet card, check to see how your program will handle that request. Some will provide an aircraft on an as-available basis or quote a second aircraft on dynamic pricing. To obtain a roundtrip discount, you will have to complete your flying within 14 hours, or in some cases less.
If you are chartering, keep in mind the aircraft might need ferrying to your airport of origin, which can eat into the available duty time for your mission. Again, with planning, the aircraft and or crew can be positioned the evening before.
Keep in mind duty time includes pre-flight checks at the start of the day, so the flight crew will have already clocked an hour of time before you get there. Also, if you are going to use a second crew or second crew with replacement aircraft, the duty time to get to you needs to be calculated in. When deadheading in a replacement crew, the duty clock starts when they board their commercial airline flight.
Are pilots flying Part 135 flights required to have a specific amount of flight experience?
Before serving as a Pilot-in-Command (PIC) in a (Visual Flight Rules) VFR operation, the pilot must have accumulated at least the following flight hour experience: 500 total pilot flight hours; 100 cross-country flight hours, and 25 night, cross-country flight hours.
Before serving as a PIC in an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) operation, the pilot must have accumulated at least the following flight hour experience: 1,200 total pilot flight hours; 500 cross-country flight hours; 100 night flight hours; 75 actual or simulated instrument flight hours, 50 of which must have been in actual flight.
Is there an age limit for Part 135 pilots?
No, except for operators that fly over 150,000 turbojet hours per year, and then it is 70. According to Traqpak, no Part 135 operator had more than 91,000 hours last year.
Are there restrictions on where Part 135 operators can fly?
Yes. Your friend who owns his or her aircraft has different and lesser requirements guided by manufacturer performances specifications, including runway length. Part 135 operators have more stringent limits, so some of the airports they fly into, with the same aircraft type, a Part 135 operator can’t.
Particularly if you are buying a jet card, this is something to ask about if there are specific airports you want to access. At least you can figure out the best, closest alternate airport.
Do some Part 135 operators have higher standards than the FAA requires?
The FAA merely mandates minimum requirements and many Part 135 operators have operational standards that exceed them.
Part 135 operators use third-party industry auditors such as Wyvern, Argus International and IS-BAO. More on this in a future story.
Part 135 operational requirements are considerably different with much more stringent regulatory safety requirements than Part 91 – if you own your own aircraft and use it for non-commercial use.
For example, Part 135 requires strict pilot duty time limitations, drug, and alcohol testing, pilot background checks, and a wide variety of safety requirements for operating and maintaining the aircraft.
There are over 2,000 Part 135 Charter Operators in the U.S. Various brokers I know focus on several hundred they consider having operational standards that are significantly higher than government requirements.
In fact, earlier this year the FAA said it wants to improve the safety of Part 135 operations. It wants to bring these companies closer to the standards of Part 121 airlines like United Airlines or Delta Air Lines.
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