CHARTERING AN AIRCRAFT
A Consumer Guide
Federal Aviation Administration
Photo by Hal Roth
This guide is designed to help you charter an
airplane or helicopter if you don't know where to start.
Air charters or air taxis (the generic term
used for all kinds of chartered aircraft) offer many advantages over
larger airlines' regularly scheduled flights. Air taxis can offer
savings of time and expense by landing at an airport close to your
destination and by following your time schedule. Take the following
You need the speed and convenience of air
travel but there is no scheduled airline service to your
destination -- general aviation airports with good facilities can
accommodate air taxi flights.
Your boss has a hectic schedule and has
trouble making all his or her appointments because there aren't
enough flights near the desired destination(s) -- air taxis follow
You need to get from place to place quickly
but the destinations are separated by geographic features such as
water -- chartering an aircraft may save you time, money and
You have a medical emergency -- chartering
aircraft is a quick and easy way to get there fast.
This document provides guidance on selecting a
safe, suitable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated
air taxi operator.
Selecting an air taxi operator is not
difficult, nor does it require a vast knowledge of the air taxi
industry or Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's).
Included in this guide are some general
questions you should ask an air taxi operator prior to arranging for
a flight. A brief description of some of the FAA regulations
operators must meet are also discussed.
There are approximately 3,000 air taxi
operators in the United States who have met the comprehensive
criteria required to qualify for an Air Carrier Operating
Certificate. Of those operators, approximately 2,500 offer service
in airplanes and 500 provide service in helicopters.
Any air taxi operator that offers services to the
public must by law be certified by the FAA and meet stringent
operational, maintenance and safety rules. In addition, the pilots
must be specially qualified.
The regulations for air taxis provide for a
high level of safety and control. They address flight operations,
maintenance requirements, and crew member training and testing. The FARís also address crew rest and physical examinations, and mandate
a stringent anti-drug program for operators. The FAA closely
monitors air taxi operators to make sure that they conform to the
established standards of performance. Your safety depends on flying
with a legally certificated air taxi operator.
Asking a few basic questions of the air taxi
operator is all that is needed to be certain that you are dealing
with an FAA Certificated Air Carrier (this is the official name for
an air taxi operator) and that the operator is authorized to provide
the type and kind of service you require. The following questions
may be helpful before arranging a flight:
Do you hold a current FAA Air Carrier
What is the name of the company as it appears
on the certificate?
What is the certificate number?
What is the name and telephone number of the
FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and who is the FAA
Principal Operations Inspector overseeing your operation?
(For international trips) Is your company FAA
authorized to conduct international operations to your
You have the right to contact the FAA Flight
Standards District Office (FSDO). The telephone number is in your
local directory under "U.S. Government, Transportation, Department
of." If the operator is unwilling or reluctant to provide the
answers to the above questions, or does not want you to contact the
FAA for verification of his or her Air Carrier Operating
Certificate, you would be wise to consider another operator to fill
your travel requirements.
When making inquiries with air taxi companies
the operator will probably want to know the following:
number of passengers
amount of baggage or freight
time constraints, and
your itinerary. Also, tell the operator the
passengersí ultimate destination so the most convenient airport
can be chosen.
Like everything, there are trade-offs between
aircraft speed, seating capacity, amenities and weather
The air taxi operator is your best source for
choosing an aircraft. Unless you have a specific preference, let the
operator recommend the aircraft that is best suited to your needs.
HOW DOES WEATHER AFFECT MY FLIGHT PLANS?
Weather can affect your flight plans. The FAA
has regulations concerning weather, types of aircraft and pilot
capabilities Some aircraft are equipped with various optional
equipment that allows operation in complex weather such as icing
conditions or heavy rain showers.
The operator you select can explain the
limitations of the aircraft and the company's authorizations The
pilot will not fly an aircraft if the weather conditions do not meet
the standards of his/her certification. Do not second-guess a
pilot's decision-making authority when it comes to weather and
WHAT IS A PRESSURIZED CABIN?
Many air taxis use aircraft that are
unpressurized. Cabin pressurization refers to an aircraft's ability
to maintain a comfortable environment in the cabin as altitude
increases and the outside air becomes colder and thinner. There are
differences in flying in a pressurized versus unpressurized
aircraft. Pressurized aircraft can fly at higher altitudes than
unpressurized aircraft. Flying at a lower altitude can be a
wonderful experience. On a clear day you can enjoy the scenery. You
can see the towns, cities, roads, mountains, lakes and rivers.
Unpressurized aircraft usually climb and descend more slowly than
pressurized aircraft and fly around rather than over the weather. If
the weather is to be a factor, the choice of aircraft can affect
your flight plans. The operator you select can explain the options.
BRINGING CHILDREN ALONG?
Remember, children are safest in an approved
child safety seat. Children under 2 years old can be held by another
passenger, but, in a sudden stop they may not be safely restrained.
If a safety seat is used, install the seat in a rear airplane seat
(consistent with the pilot's instructions) but not near an entry
door or emergency exit. Seats manufactured to U.S. standards after
February 26, 1985, bear two labels reading:
"This child restraint system
conforms to all applicable safety standards"
"THIS RESTRAINT IS CERTIFIED FOR
USE IN MOTOR VEHICLES AND AIRCRAFT"
in red lettering. Follow the seat
manufacturer's instructions and observe weight limitations.
Chartering an air taxi is a convenient and safe
way to travel. We hope this guide has helped you become a
better-informed consumer of an important segment of the