Booking a private flight has become fairly easy with the help of the internet, but is it safe? Here are some key questions you should be asking yourself, or better yet, the operator:
Do you know how old the aircraft is? When was it last refurbished?
Has there been any damage or serious maintenance anomalies?
Who is the PIC (pilot in command) and what is their background?
Do they have the required minimum hours of PIC training in the specific make and model of your chartered aircraft?
What about the SIC (second in command)?
Do both pilots have their Class 1 and Class 2 medical certificates?
How do you really know if you are getting into a safe, certified, and reliable aircraft?
First and foremost, always book your private jet on a Part 135 certified operator and or foreign equivalent, such as IS-BAO (The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations). Part 135 certificate holders are recognized by the FAA as on-demand air carriers that maintain manuals, training programs, and have the required number of management positions to ensure a level of safety and governance set by the FAA.
The good news for everyone flying private, there are thousands of Part 135 certified operators available for charter in North America. However, plenty have history with emergency landings, crews failing drug tests, out of date equipment, and accident reports. This is why brokers and private jet operators rely on third party auditing systems like ARGUS. ARGUS stands for Air Research Group – United States. This private company provides independent safety audits and inspections for jet charter operators. To provide accurate aircraft and crew specific safety reports, ARGUS created TripCHEQ.
TripCHEQ is a comprehensive analysis of an operator’s credentials, including detailed information on the operator’s history, their aircraft, and pilots. For example, a PIC (pilot in command) must have at least 3,000 hours of flight time, be ATP rated (Airline Transport Pilot), have their current Class 1 Medical certificate, no significant accidents, incidents, or enforcement actions in the last 3 years, and is a salaried employee of the operator, not a contracted pilot.
TripCHEQ provides three results when vetting your private jet: red, yellow, and green. They also provide additional safety ratings marked as ARGUS Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum. But what does it mean and what do we (as brokers) do with this information?
Red: there is a known deficiency, or the operator refuses to disclose information. In these cases, we figure out what the deficiency is or determine what the incomplete information is and resolve it, or select another aircraft/crew option.
Yellow: Certain data may be missing, not verified, or does not meet the highest standard. Additional information may be needed to obtain a conclusive result. This is usually just a warning, and could be triggered by a number of factors. We figure out what the incomplete information is and resolve it, or select another aircraft/crew option.
Green: Operator is ARGUS Gold, Gold Plus, or Platinum Rated. All requirements related to the operator’s aircraft and flight crew have been met. Once we receive all green indications we know that the carrier meets all FAA Part 135 requirements and are safe to operate the flights for our clients.
Each aircraft operator gets a ranking by ARGUS and the rankings go from Gold to Gold Plus up to Platinum which is the highest rank. Read more here.
ARGUS Gold: operating certificate for a minimum of one year, at least one turbine aircraft on certificate, in-depth historical safety analysis, pilot background check, aircraft operational control validation.
ARGUS Gold Plus: operating certificate for a minimum of one year, at least one turbine aircraft on certificate, in-depth historical safety analysis, pilot background check, aircraft operational control validation. ARGUS on-site audit with uncorrected findings.
ARGUS Platinum: operating certificate for a minimum of one year, at least one turbine aircraft on certificate, in-depth historical safety analysis, pilot background check, aircraft operational control validation. ARGUS on-site audit with uncorrected findings, emergency response plan, functioning safety management system.
Flying private is convenient and it is easy to get flooded with great options when you begin shopping for a private jet. The best way to know you are booking a safe aircraft is to work with a trusted broker that has a long history of coordinating private air charter flights. Remember, if the carrier is not Part 135 certified and is unable to produce a “Green” TripCHEQ report, run, don’t fly.