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Aircraft Charter Safety Ratings – What Do They Really Mean?

When choosing an aircraft charter provider, it is important to determine whether the charter company you are considering meets the highest safety standards possible.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducts a lengthy certification process before ever granting an aircraft charter operator the authority to fly the general public.  In addition, the FAA has continual oversight of the operator during annual base inspections, during conformity inspections to add new aircraft to the certificate, and during semi-annual checks of the pilots.  Most charter operators strive to meet a higher safety standard than that regulated by the FAA.  For example, the FAA requires that captains have 1200 hours of flight experience.  Most operators have a minimum standard of 2500 hours and the best operators require somewhere around 5000 hours of experience.

Several organizations have developed industry-wide safety standards for aircraft charter operations to help unify these standards.  They are ARG/US (Aviation Research Group/US), Wyvern, the Air Charter Safety Foundation and IBAC (International Business Aviation Council).

ARG/US is perhaps the most well-known of the aviation safety standards organizations.  They rate charter organizations under the following categories; DNQ (does not qualify), Gold, Gold Plus and Platinum.

  • A Gold operator meets the basic ARG/US safety standards.
  • The Gold Plus designation is given to an operator that meets the basic standards plus has participated in either an ARG/US audit of its operations and procedures or has received IS-BAO registration.
  • The Platinum designation is awarded to those operators that meet the basic safety standards, pass the on-site audit and also have both a Safety Management System and an Emergency Response Plan in place.

Wyvern has long been respected in the charter industry for its high standards.  The Wyvern Standard includes such requirements for the pilots as a minimum of 4000 hours of flight experience with certain other flight time requirements related to time in type of aircraft.  Wyvern publishes the Pilot and Aircraft Safety Survey (PASS) report on request that indicates whether the operator, crew and aircraft you have chosen meet either a basic safety standard or meet the Wyvern Standard.  Those operators who pass Wyvern’s strict audit procedures become Wyvern “recommended”.  The phrase “recommended” is the only phrase that implies the aircraft charter operator has met Wyvern’s higher standard.

The Air Charter Safety Foundation aims to promote safety standardization throughout the charter industry.  The ACSF Industry Audit Standard has been developed with the input and guidance of leading safety auditors, charter operators, shared aircraft ownership companies and charter consumers.

One standard encompasses global aircraft charter standards – the IS-BAO, which stands for International Standard of Business Aircraft Operations.  This code of best practices was introduced by the International Business Aviation Council and has been widely adopted as the gold standard for business aircraft operations.  It has been endorsed by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) as well as multinational organizations worldwide.  Audits are not provided by the organization, but rather by independent, third party auditors who are certificated by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC).

Be sure that the aircraft charter operator you are considering meets at least one, if not more, of these standards.  For more information on safety rating systems please visit our safety page.

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