FAA to improve safety of public charter flights

Public charter

The FAA has announced plans to take two actions to address “rapidly” growing public charter flights, such as those offered by JSX and Aero.

The agency says services appear to operate like scheduled airlines but under “less-rigorous safety regulations – a fact that oftentimes is not transparent to the flying public”. The FAA will formally explore new ways to integrate charter flights into the airspace in a safe manner that maintains flexibility for users. 

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said: “Part of the safety mission of the FAA is identifying risk early on, and that’s exactly what we’re doing on public charters as usage expands. If a company is effectively operating as a scheduled airline, the FAA needs to determine whether those operations should follow the same stringent rules as scheduled airlines.” 

The FAA first made its plans public with a request for input in August 2023 from which it received and evaluated approximately 60,000 comments. It wants to amend part 110 definitions of “scheduled”, “on demand” and “supplemental” operations. If finalised, public charters will be subject to operating rules based on the same safety parameters as other non-public charter operations.   

“At the same time, we want to look at how future innovation might cause us to think differently,” Whitaker added. “Safe air travel options should be available to everyone, not limited to only those living near a major airport. We want to put a safety lens over the options of future innovation, as we work to further connect small and rural communities to open up more options for everyone at the same high level of safety.” 

The FAA intends to issue the notice of proposed rulemaking as quickly as possible . As part of any proposed rule, the agency would seek comment on an effective date that would allow for industry to adapt to any change in the regulatory environment.

Maintaining focus on expanding air services to small and rural communities, the FAA will look to  align aircraft size and certification standards with operational needs for such communities. The agency will convene a safety risk management panel (SRMP) to assess “the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled part 135 operations in 10-30 seat aircraft”.

The FAA’s public charter work is being done in coordination with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While the FAA focuses on the safety of the flying public, TSA focuses on the security of transportation systems. 

The TSA has been reviewing the security requirements of certain operators under the Twelve-Five Standard Security Program (TFSSP), which includes a proposal for the screening of passengers and their accessible property on public charter flights along with other requirements for all TFSSP operators. In accordance with 49 CFR 1544, TSA provided a 45-day comment period for the impacted operators that ends on June 27. TSA will adjudicate any comments received from industry and continue to work closely with the impacted operators.


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