New Saudi AOC deadline fast approaching


New rules requiring aircraft owners to register their aircraft under an Aircraft Operators Certificate (AOC) are due to come into effect in Saudi Arabia on March 1st.

The new rules cover all business aircraft based in the country, regardless of whether they are registered on the Saudi Arabia HZ- aircraft register or elsewhere.

Aircraft owners have the option of using two General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) Operator Certificate types for their aircraft. The first option is to add the aircraft onto a commercial AOC, which will be under GACA Part 121 Special Unscheduled Operation, which would allow the owner to charter out the aircraft.

The second Operator Certificate (OC) is under GACA Part 125, which is for owners who will only use their aircraft for personal (non-commercial) flights.

It is understood that the Saudi authorities have put the new rules into place to combat the so-called ‘grey’ market charters, where aircraft are chartered out unofficially.

The grey market is not just an issue in Saudi Arabia, and authorities globally have been looking at ways to combat it. As well as passengers flying on a potentially unsafe aircraft that has not been audited by the correct authorities, because grey-market charters often undercut bona fide charter operators’ prices, they often take away business from the legitimate charter operators.

Yosef Hafiz, CCO of NasJet says that the new rules were mostly driven through by IATA which told Saudi authorities that they needed to become stricter with enforcing rules with monitoring foreign-registered aircraft based in the country.

“Most of the aircraft in Saudi Arabia are probably non-Saudi registered,” says Hafiz “A lot are registered in the Cayman Islands, the Isle of Man, the US, San Marino or Bermuda, where nobody was really monitoring the activity of the aircraft because they are here 365 days a year.”

The only monitoring of the aircraft was done during the yearly audit by the registration authorities in the country in which the aircraft is registered, with very little oversight of the movements of the aircraft in and out as well as inside Saudi Arabia.

NasJet welcomed the announcement of the new GACA rules and regulations which were first announced by the Saudi authorities on the 1st March 2016, with aircraft owners given six months to let the authorities know under which AOC type they would be registering their aircraft and another 18 months to ensure that the AOC registration had been completed.

Without having their aircraft registered under an AOC (Part 121 Special Unscheduled) or an OC (Part 125), foreign-registered aircraft hoping to operate within Saudi Arabia are not having their annual landing permits renewed.

As the deadline draws closer, Hafiz says that NasJet is seeing an increased number of clients contacting it, asking for its help. This, Hafiz says, is because the new rules were not taken seriously at first, but operators now realise that if their aircraft has not joined an AOC or OC by March 1 it will effectively be grounded.