Confusion Surrounding Operational Control Systems for Part 91 and Part 135 Aircraft

ORLANDO, FL, October 8, 2008 – Because of the increased focus on Part 135 operations in recent years, attention has turned to discussing the issues surrounding operational control for Part 91 aircraft operations – including managed aircraft. In many cases, managed aircraft are used in Part 135, or charter-flight, operations and also non-commercial operations for the aircraft owner.

There are a number of questions regarding a Part 91 aircraft being managed by a separate company. Is an owner responsible for a flight managed by another company? How is the aircraft insured in that situation?

More than 125 Attendees at the NBAA 61st Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2008) participated in an interactive discussion to tackle these confusing issues.

NBAA’s Mike Nichols, vice president, operations, education & economics, moderated the discussion that featured Melissa Harder of Willis Global Aviation and David Norton of the Shackelford, Melton & McKinley law firm.

As defined in the Federal Aviation Regulations, “operational control, with respect to a flight, means the exercise of authority over initiating, conducting or terminating a flight.”

“One of the things that has been suggested is that the insurance companies need to amend their policies to make it absolutely clear what they will and will not do in certain circumstances,” Harder said. Be careful what you wish for, she said, because new policies and contracts could confuse the matter even more.

Insurance terms for these operations can be tricky, according to session Attendees. The terms that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses to define a legal Part 91 operation, and the terms insurance companies use are similar but carry very different meanings, Harder said.

Operators should have a procedure to ensure their plane, flightcrew, mission and passengers meet all applicable regulations. Simply put: legal plane, legal crew, legal flight and legal passengers, which is a concept first proposed by Dennis Keith of JetSolutions, LLC at a meeting NBAA held in July 2004 with officials from FAA and DOT on issues surrounding operational control.

NBAA has created a compliance checklist that identifies areas of importance and focus for the FAA and can be used by any aircraft owner or operator as a quick way to audit a flight or series of flights to verify, or identify gaps in, compliance with regulations.

Nichols said that operators of both Parts 91 and 135 aircraft should document their operational control system and ensure their standard operating procedures match their actual policies.

They should also be sure their flightcrew and aircraft management companies are trained on the operational control procedures, and passengers should be aware of who has control of the plane – the owner or management company – during all flights.

The entire discussion will be available as part of NBAA’s On-Demand Education Program. For more information and to place an order, visit:

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