Safety is paramount with the FAA and it is the primary issue that the FAA scrutinizes with respect to Part 91 and 135 operators. Owner/operators are in position – and arguably have an obligation – to set the tone when it comes to operational safety. The entity chosen to manage the aircraft, whether for charter operations or solely under Part 91, can make a big difference in how well the aircraft is maintained, the quality of pilots that fly the aircraft, and the overall level of service rendered. This is all incredibly important from a safety perspective.
Management companies come in all shapes and sizes, from the startup with a handful of aircraft to major companies that have been around for decades, offering a full-service menu from sales to brokerage to maintenance. Some have a long-standing and stellar safety record, others are still trying to figure it all out – including how to follow stringent FAA safety regulations. We know this because we field a lot of calls from management companies. Moreover (and unfortunately), not all management companies operate with the same level of diligence and care that most owner/operators would expect, which is why we tend to see a lot of management company change from year-to-year as owner/operators move on to seek out an unmet service standard.
One of the ways that an owner/operator can protect their asset(s) is by securing a well-written management agreement that accounts for every conceivable scenario. Issues to consider include: Where is the aircraft going to be stored – outside in the rain, snow or shine? In a hangar? How long will it be outside if it is hangared but needs to be moved for some reason? What does security look like onsite? How is the aircraft going to be maintained and who is going to do the requisite maintenance?
Other issues to consider include: Who will fly the aircraft with key business personnel onboard? What are the credentials of the crew?
Moreover, does the management agreement expressly prescribe who has operational control of the aircraft when in the air? Operational control is a paramount issue for the FAA and will be one of the – if not the – key questions the FAA asks in the event of an incident investigation. The answer should not be head-scratching by the pilot and passengers when an FAA investigator asks that question during a ramp check or an incident investigation.
The attorneys at Aero Law Group have decades of experience addressing all of these issues and we work collaboratively with the owner/operator and the management companies to ensure all parties are aligned from a business and regulatory perspective.
The information in this article is intended to highlight potential issues with aircraft ownership and operations and is therefore general in nature. Please feel free to contact one of our experienced aviation attorneys directly to discuss your specific business/personal needs.