Featured image: Mathew Calise/Airways

FAA Seeks Rule Change for Safer Public Charter Flights

DALLAS — The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced its plans to take two actions to address public charter flights, which it says "have rapidly expanded in frequency and complexity in recent years."

The FAA is set on initiating a rulemaking to amend part 110 definitions of “scheduled,” “on demand,” and “supplemental” operations. If this first amendment action is approved, public charters "will be subject to operating rules based on the same safety parameters as other non-public charter operations."  

For context, Kalitta Air has three IATA codes: K4 for Kalitta Air, the American cargo airline that also offers international scheduled services; K9 for Kalitta Charters, which offers "air charter services for cargo, passenger, and medical transport, either by contract or on-demand" and whose code IATA says is a “Controlled Duplicate” where two carriers have the same code but operate different types of non-overlapping services; and K5 for Kalitta Charters II, which also offers the same charter flight service as K9.

Secondly, the FAA will explore opportunities to "align aircraft size and certification standards with operational needs for small community and rural air service." To accomplish this task, the FAA will convene a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) "to assess the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled part 135 operations in 10-30 seat aircraft."

As per the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 135 regulates commercial on-demand operations such as charter flights (private jet) and air taxi services (with paying passengers), among other types of transactional private jet arrangements. Part 121 covers a scheduled operation, such as with airline carrier services.

The agency will also set up a Safety Risk Management Panel (SRMP) "to assess the feasibility of a new operating authority for scheduled part 135 operations in 10-30 seat aircraft." thi spanel will also look through the data for current risks as it looks to "the future of the national airspace system."

N508FR, Air Charter Express Saab 2000 @KPVU. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

Reasons for the Rule Change Regarding Charter Flights

According to the FAA, there are charter services that seem to operate like scheduled airlines but "under less-rigorous safety regulations" unbeknownst to the flying public. With the proposed amendments, the FAA aims to integrate charter flights into the airspace "in a manner that provides flexibility and safe options for all flyers."

FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker states in today's announcement, “Part of the safety mission of the FAA is identifying risk early on, and that’s exactly what we’re doing on public charters as usage expands. If a company is effectively operating as a scheduled airline, the FAA needs to determine whether those operations should follow the same stringent rules as scheduled airlines."

“At the same time, we want to look at how future innovation might cause us to think differently. Safe air travel options should be available to everyone, not limited to only those living near a major airport. We want to put a safety lens over the options of future innovation, as we work to further connect small and rural communities to open up more options for everyone at the same high level of safety,” added the FAA Administrator.

As the proposed rulemaking change can affect rural and even future eVTOL operations, the U.S. aviation authority will seek comment on an effective date "that would allow for industry to adapt to any change in the regulatory environment." The FAA's plans come after an initial request for comments in August 2023, during which the agency received and assessed around 60,000 public responses.

The Featured image shows a Kalitta Air Charters (K9) Boeing 727-224. K9 is set to dry-lease three Boeing 777-200Fs in 2024.

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