FAA issues notice on Illegal Charter: 'Putting the flying public in danger'

Unauthorized Part 135 flights – illegal charter – “continues to be a problem nationwide,” according a Federal Aviation Administration notice issued yesterday.

By Doug Gollan, February 2, 2022

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice yesterday warning about illegal charter flights. This follows industry groups that have been sounding the alarm.

In the letter, the FAA said, “Unauthorized 135 operations continue to be a problem nationwide, putting the flying public in danger, diluting safety in the national airspace system, and undercutting the business of legitimate operators.”

It said two key issues are “the misuse and/or misunderstanding of expense sharing between pilots and passengers. Second, the apparent lack of understanding of pilot privileges and limitations versus operating rules.”

When sharing private jet expenses is an illegal charter

The memo clarified the ability of a pilot to share expenses.

“Pilots must also remember, if they want to share expenses under § 61.113(c), they must not ‘hold out’ to the public or a segment of the public to expense share because that would put them into the realm of common carriage—i.e., (1) the holding out of a willingness to (2) transport persons or property (3) from place to place (4) for compensation or hire.”

Doing so “changes the operating rules under which the flight must be conducted and, necessarily, triggers the higher certification and qualification requirements for pilots required by those operating rules.”

The FAA provides the following example: “A private pilot is flying to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to visit her mother in the hospital over the weekend. Five of her friends would be coming with her to attend a football game that same weekend. She can legally share expenses because she has a reason to fly to Stillwater (visit her mother), not simply to transport her friends. Expanding the same scenario; if she has too many friends going to the football game that she has to make a second trip to pick up the rest, she cannot legally share expenses on the second trip because her purpose for flying to Stillwater was complete when she arrived the first time. The second flight was solely for the transportation of passengers.”

Lack of understanding

According to the notice, a key issue is, “In general, pilots do not know or completely understand that the privileges and limitations of their certificates are separate and distinct from the operational rules required to conduct a flight, or to put it simply, pilot certification rules vs. operational rules.”

For a pilot, “simply holding a commercial pilot or ATP certificate” does not mean they can fly passengers or cargo under Part 135 for-hire charter and jet card flights.

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