Do you want to operate your own aircraft or use a manager?


A fleet of business jets parked at London Biggin Hill Airport.

Once you have decided to buy an aircraft, the first question for new owners is whether you want to operate the aircraft yourself or use a specialist management company?
A fleet of business jets parked at London Biggin Hill Airport.

A fleet of business jets parked at London Biggin Hill Airport.

If you do not already own an aircraft there are many benefits to using an aircraft manager. It can save you money and the good news for aircraft owners is that there are hundreds of companies offering this service and you will have choice wherever you wish to base your aircraft.

A second related question is: Do you want to sell your aircraft for charter when you are being use?

Chartering your aircraft

If you want to recoup some of your operating costs by chartering your aircraft out you need to use a company that is approved to offer charter.

In the US, these are known as Part135 operators, as they are governed by this part of the Federal Aviation Authorities’ Federal Aviation Regulations. In the rest of the world, they are often called AOCs, reflecting that they have been given an Aircraft Operating Certificate, which allows them to offer charter (in the US it is called an Air Carrier Operating Certificate).

Aviation regulations are much stricter for companies offering charter,l and owners that offer charter on aircraft not being operated to FAR Part 135 regulations – or on an AOC – are breaking the law and also invalidating their insurance (see illegal charter).

There are more than 2,000 Part 135 operators in the US and hundreds of AOC holders around the world. In some countries – including Italy and China – all aircraft need to be operated by an AOC holder.

Not for charter

If you do not want the extra revenue from charter (or the tax benefits that you can obtain), there are other advantages to not putting your aircraft on an AOC or Part 135. AOC regulations are really designed for airlines and limit what the aircraft can do.

Aircraft on Part 91 – the FAA regulation for privately operated aircraft – or not on AOCs are not required to have as many maintenance inspections, are able to land on shorter runways and the pilots have fewer restrictions on the hours they fly.

This is not necessarily more dangerous; a pilot that has been resting for four days is probably less tired than a low-cost airline pilot who has been on shifts, for example. All aircraft have minimum runway requirements – the difference is that Part 135 operators need to assume that they only land in the last 80 per cent of the runway.

“There is more flexibility from private operations providing that you make sure the aircraft operator has good SMS [safety management systems],” says one leading international operator. “Operating a private aircraft can be just as safe as a commercial aircraft.”

Owners not looking for charter revenue can chose between an aircraft manager with no AOC or Part 135, which may manage several aircraft or companies that also offer charter. As operators make money from charter, management costs are higher for owners that do not charter their aircraft.

Whether they chose to use an AOC holder or a private management company, owners should benefit from economies of scale. This means that outgoing costs such as fuel, insurance, maintenance and spare parts can be slashed dramatically by large operators who buy in far bigger quantities than individuals operating their own aircraft.


Related articles:

> The benefits of using an aircraft manager
> How to choose an aircraft manager