Should I Be Concerned about the Safety of Chartered Private Jets?

Jet taking off The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates charter service operators and establishes the safety, maintenance, and operations standards they must follow. Before a charter operator is certified to do business, the planes it operates are inspected for conformity with FAA standards. The FAA also reviews the licenses, work history, flight time, and medical history of the pilots as well as the training programs the charter operator offers its employees. The charter aircraft operator must have a hazardous material program and manual, a drug and alcohol program, and, if planes will fly in icy conditions, a ground deicing procedure and training program. The FAA strengthened security at private airports as well.

In addition to the FAA standards, charter operators have their own security procedures which they may explain under the heading of Safety on their Web sites. Before boarding a chartered plane, passengers may be required to present two forms of identification. Some charters allow pilots to inspect both passengers and luggage.

As mentioned before, two private companies, Aviation Research Group/US (ARG/US) and Wyvern Consulting Ltd., also advise consumers on the safety records of charter operators, aircraft types, and individual pilots. Both companies audit the records of charter operators, conduct criminal background checks on pilots, and monitor the pilots’ hours of flying time on the aircraft they operate.

ARG/US offers the TripCHEQ service. Consumers may purchase a TripCHEQ or request one from their charter operator. TripCHEQs rate flights with a green, yellow, or red light based on the experience level of the pilot and co-pilot and the safety record of the charter operator. The two pilots must possess a combined total of 250 hours of flight experience with the aircraft they will fly on the charter flight. Out of 42,000 flights rated by ARG/US TripCHEQ over the course of one year, only 12% failed to meet ARG/US standards, usually because the pilots lacked the required experience.

Wyvern offers the Pilot & Aircraft Safety Survey (PASS) program. After auditing the companies, Wyvern ranks charter operators as Wyvern recommended or not. In 2007, only 112 charter operators out of 1,280 were ranked Wyvern recommended. On the Wyvern Web site, consumers can evaluate individual charter flights to determine if they are Wyvern compliant or not. Consumers can base the evaluation on their own safety standards or on the standards recommended by Wyvern.

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