Operational Control, etc.

For Part 135s, there are other issues: state taxes; security; empty legs


ALEXANDRIA, VA — The National Air Transportation Association, based here adjacent to Washington, recently held its first annual Air Charter Summit, a reflection of the growing significance of the Part 135 charter market. Some 270 representatives of certificate holders, brokers, the feds (DOT, FAA, TSA, NTSB), and consultants were in attendance. Following the event, NATA’s Eric Byer, vice president of government and industry affairs, sat with AIRPORT BUSINESS to talk charter. Edited excerpts ...

On hot topics at the first annual charter summit ...

Byer: “Operational control was a big topic ... and caused a bit of a firestorm.

“Joe Conte [manager of the operations law branch within FAA’s chief counsel’s office] stole the show when he started talking about charter brokering and empty leg postings, and what you could and couldn’t do regarding scheduled flights. I think it really took a lot of people’s breath away.

“Essentially what he said is you have to be very careful with what you do on emply leg postings, and contact your attorney to make sure what you are doing is right. There are certain web providers that have empty leg postings, and I think he essentially said, hey, those are illegal. That got a lot of people deeply concerned.

On what makes it illegal ...

“That’s a good question. What Joe’s trying to get at is you’re essentially identifying aircraft that could be scheduled. Is that legal? If you’re scheduling, that takes away from what you’re supposed to be doing as a Part 135 certificate holder.

“There’s a fair amount of ambiguity. NATA is putting together some guidance right now as to how best to handle the situation until we find out more from the guys up at the FAA legal squad.

On the status of FAA’s total review of Part 135 regs ...

“There’s six different parts that came out of the ARC [aviation rulemaking committee]. We understand that two of them are close to being issued in a proposed rule by the end of the year or next year. I think that will involve flight and rest...”

On how very light jets (VLJs) will be regulated ...

“Good question. It’s hard to tell what the guys at (FAA) headquarters will do with DayJet. They seem to have a good business model, they’ve got a great aircraft, I don’t see why there would be a problem.”

On TSA’s indication it will expand the 12/5 security rule, and its impact of Part 135s ...

“The bunch the TSA has in the general aviation side knows things pretty well. I have complete confidence that whatever is put forth is not going to be too cumbersome.”

On overall challenges facing Part 135s ...

“Operational control remains the big issue. To FAA’s credit, it flew in the regionals to listen to what exactly ops/spec meant, and how you go out and do enforcement.

“It’s about getting everybody on the same page, singing off the same sheet of music when it comes to the application of operational control, whether form the enforcement or operational side.”

On tax issues facing charters ...

“At any given time, we have a half of dozen tax issues that affect the 135 community. The biggest issue we have now is the state-imposed tax. You’ll see states saying that because you operate an aircraft into the state you’re conducting commerce and subject to a tax. Sometimes those states forget that this is a national air transportation system.”

On the association’s frustrations with security ...

“NATA represents aviation service companies. While they are “unregulated parties,” they are constantly receiving security directives from airports or FSDs, and they are supposed to implement them. A problem we’re having is getting that information firsthand, right away, once it hits the street.

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