What the Public and Media Should Know About the U.S. On-Demand Air Charter Industry
About The Industry
The U.S. on-demand air charter industry comprises more than 2,000 air operators that utilize many different types of aircraft from small, single-engine airplanes and helicopters, to business jets able to travel more than 7,500 miles between landings.
The FAA Requires That Part 135 Operators
- Adhere to special oversight procedures, giving operators the ability to function and serve its customers’ needs, while preserving the flexibility needed for this wide range of aircraft and operations.
- Maintain day-to-day compliance with all FAA regulations, which is dependent on the individual operator’s integrity, knowledge, and abilities.
- Provide air charter customers the equivalent level of safety offered by “FAR Part 121” scheduled airlines.
Differences Between Part 121 and Part 135 Air Carriers
- The FAA sets minimum standards through enacting regulations that take many years to implement.
- The FAA has limited resources so it accomplishes regulatory compliance oversight differently for Part 135 on-demand charter operators compared to the Part 121 scheduled airlines.
- The best on-demand charter operators adopt and implement more robust industry best practices than what’s required by the FAA to best serve the safety and business needs of their customers.
Lack of On-Demand Industry Awareness
- The common goal of the best on-demand air charter companies is to go far beyond the FAA regulations to ensure passenger safety. Yet, most air charter customers are unfamiliar with these additional efforts.
- These additional efforts include:
- Adopting established industry standards and best practices that exceed FAA minimum requirements.
- Implementing Safety Management Systems (SMS)
- Welcoming third-party audits to validate their safety systems.
- Supporting industry safety organizations that share safety information and best practices.
Challenges Related to Auditing Charter Operations
- Some charter operators invest in systems and processes that significantly exceed minimum FAA regulations. But, it can be very challenging to identify these operators.
- Several commercial audit companies have implemented their own proprietary audit standards in an attempt to distinguish the best charter operators.
- Having different audit standards:
- Requires operators to comply with up to six different standards, based on customer demand.
- Diverts valuable operational resources to track the various standards and facilitate up to six separate audits annually.
- Creates competition among commercial audit companies (because audit standards are proprietary to each auditing firm), which results in a non-cohesive set of standards that have diminished their usefulness.
Solution: One Common Industry Audit Standard
- In 2007, the Air Charter Safety Foundation, with significant input from the air charter industry, developed a common Industry Audit Standard (IAS) to which all on-demand air charter operators and fractional aircraft ownership management companies can be evaluated.
- The IAS is based on the Part 121 auditing standard that has been successful at reducing risk in that industry.
- The ACSF does not conduct audits, but does provide training and accreditation to auditors, allowing them to conduct an ACSF audit. ACSF personnel review the results of each audit prior to registration of the air charter operator.
- The IAS standard is not proprietary, and can be viewed online to help charter customers and operators understand the exacting standards needed for registration.
- All IAS documents are available on www.acsf.aero for anyone to review.
- The IAS is a high standard. As operators successfully complete ACSF registration, they are added to the ACSF website (www.acsf.aero), where the public can view on-demand air charter operators that meet these higher standards.
About The Air Charter Safety Foundation (ACSF)
The ACSF is a non-profit membership organization with common safety goals. The ACSF’s vision is to enable on-demand charter providers and fractional program managers the ability to achieve the highest levels of safety in the aviation industry through
- Promotion and facilitation of risk management programs;
- Advocacy for industry adoption of one common audit standard;
- Dissemination of safety information; and
- Creation of additional programs that advance the goals of the Foundation.
Types of ACSF Members
- Regular members are aircraft charter operators, management companies, corporate flight departments and fractional ownership providers.
- Associate members are insurance companies/brokers, training centers, maintenance facilities, FBO’s, aircraft manufacturers, and others.
- Affiliate members are other non-profit organizations and small businesses, consultants, and aircraft brokers.
- Universities and schools committed to supporting aviation education, and advancing the mission and goals of the Air Charter Safety Foundation.
Number of Programs Available to ACSF Members
- ACSF Industry Audit Standard (IAS) – The only audit program that comprehensively and independently evaluates an air charter operator’s and/or fractional ownership company’s safety and regulatory compliance. It helps alleviate the substantial costs and redundancies associated with today’s auditing environment, where operators are subject to multiple audits every year that consume precious resources. Participating independent auditors are accredited by the ACSF.
- Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) – ASAP is a voluntary, self-reporting program that identifies and reduces possible flight safety concerns, and mitigates risk. It encourages an employee of a participating member company to voluntarily report safety issues, by offering enforcement-related incentives. An ASAP is based on a safety partnership that includes the ACSF, the FAA, and the participating company.
- Air Charter Safety Symposium – Annually the ACSF hosts the Air Charter Safety Symposium at the National Transportation Safety Board Training Center, offering two days of learning and discussion on topics such as reducing errors through empowered accountability and crew resource management.
- Illegal Charter Reporting Hotline – A toll-free hotline (888-759-3581) is available for anyone to file a report of suspected illegal commercial flights where an aircraft operator without a FAA Part 135 certificate is accepting compensation for transportation.
- Safety Updates – Topic-specific briefings are made available to members via email and the ACSF Web-site based on recent FAA publications, notices/directives, and industry research/data.
- Safety Management System (SMS) Resources – An online resource for members seeking research to either implement or support the ongoing operation of their SMS.