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Book a Private Jet Instead of Risking a Donor Aircraft

Updated: Jun 12

donor aircraft, book a business jet, part 91, part 135

Collegiate sports programs are in many ways very similar to corporate entities; their top management has limited time and a full schedule. Often, recruiting and other travel are to areas not well-served by scheduled service. This can make travel very difficult. Enter the go-to travel tool of private jet travel. The privacy, flexibility, and convenience of flying private can be a critical advantage in the competitive world of collegiate sports. While a donated private aircraft (known as Part 91 certification) can result in significant savings versus utilizing a commercially certified air charter operator (known as Part 135 certification), there are important differences between the two types of certification you should be aware of. 

Part 91 - Private Donor Aircraft

Part 91 of the FAA regulations contain the rules and operating requirements for civil aircraft for private use, setting the safety and operating standards for small, non-commercial, private aircraft.  Because the rules are intended to apply to private use, they are less robust than the commercial standard of Part 135, diminishing the level of safety when compared to Part 135.

Part 135  - A Safer Choice

Part 135 apply to aircraft engaged in common carriage (for hire) of passengers aboard aircraft with less than 31 seats. This includes business jets as well as some commuter aircraft. The maintenance, safety, and operating standards are much higher than Part 91 given these operations are for hire. Makes sense, as Part 135 business jet air charter operators are offering their services to the public for hire, not just their owner.

Okay, But Doesn’t the FAA Oversee Both Types of Private Jet Charter Certifications?

Yes! Here’s why; According to recent NTSB data, fatalities associated with Part 91 operations outnumber those of Part 135 operations by 18:1. There is a clear correlation between the number of incidents and accidents and under which regulatory certification an aircraft operates. What are some key differences?  Help yourself to the comparison chart below:

The L-Word – Liability

If an incident or accident occurs involving a private jet charter flight that you played a part in arranging, one of the first questions asked will be, “what standards did you utilize while procuring the aircraft?”. The liability of selecting the aircraft remains with you, regardless of whether it is donated or not. While a private jet aircraft owner can choose to maintain their aircraft according to standards that are ostensibly equivalent to commercial standards, it’s a black box in that you can never know for sure. We kindly direct you back to the comparison chart. There is a lot of room for gray areas on the private side (Part 91).  This liability extends not only to staff, but anyone else that might fly on the aircraft, including student athletes. 

Responsible Procurement

Reputable air charter brokers and air charter operators utilize third party audit companies that can provide clients with information such as pilot experience, certifications, medical status, aircraft age, and operator incident and accident history. Ask your air charter broker what audit standards they have available. Additionally, just being able to maintain the standards of Part 135 certification in and of itself is not an easy undertaking.  While this is not to say that private aircraft are not well maintained, it is true that the standards are lower. The best advice we can give if you need to charter a private jet is to utilize a commercial Part 135 operator.


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