When it comes to chartering a private jet, there are thousands of companies out there that are more than happy to help.
Of course, there are two key considerations for most customers – money and safety. And, more often than not, these two elements are linked together.
Generally speaking, the safer the operation, the more the mission is going to cost.
However, how can you accurately judge the safety of a private plane charter? One of the best ways is through auditing additional aviation safety ratings.
This provides an easy way to check the safety information of a charter operator or broker.
Importantly, the safety of private aircraft is extremely high. In fact, in many cases, they are even safer than commercial flights. Therefore, it is down to the aircraft operators themselves to hold themselves to the highest standards and enforce the safety regulations.
Charter Brokers and Operators
In the world of private aviation, when it comes to chartering a private jet, new customers often get confused between brokers and operators. However, knowing the difference is crucial.
Simply put, brokers are the middlemen. Brokers do not own any aircraft and are not in operational control.
Rather, charter brokerage companies connect you (the customer), with the company that actually flies the aircraft (the operator).
In some ways, this can be thought of as similar to buying a house. When purchasing a house you go through a Real Estate agent. This is the company that handles the payment and links you to the seller. However, they don’t own the house. They merely facilitate the purchasing.
On the other hand, operators are the ones that fly the aircraft. In some cases, the operator owns the aircraft outright. In others, they manage the aircraft for a customer who wants to charter out the aircraft when not in use.
Knowing this key distinction will help in understanding where the safety standards need to apply.
In terms of safety, operators have to undergo safety checks no matter what. This is in order to receive their certification of operation, allowing them to fly for reward.
On the other hand, brokers do not have to undergo safety checks in order to operate. There is far less regulation around brokers. However, brokers are eligible to obtain the safety certifications listed below.
Basic Private Jet Safety
Obtaining additional safety accolades is no easy task, especially for jet operators.
Companies are required to undergo in-depth audits, reviews, background checks, and more.
However, simply because a broker or operator does not have these additional certifications does not make them unsafe.
Within the United States, operators must have a Part 135 Air Carrier and Operator Certificate (AOC). In order to receive the FAA Part 135 certificate, the operator has to undergo stringent checks.
For example, Part 135 requires that the operator has a full team of management personnel to oversee all aspects of the organization. This includes, for example, having a Chief Pilot and Maintenance & Operations Manager.
Moreover, FAA Part 135 operators must undergo checks for insurance and maintenance, as well as adhere to strict crew rest schedules.
Therefore, if your operator is Part 135 certified (which it should be – Part 91 operations are not allowed to fly for reward – i.e. payment), FAA safety standards are already in place.
However, in an effort to improve safety and differentiate themselves, operators are able to optionally enroll in independent safety audits.
The Three Players – IS-BAO, Argus and Wyvern
In the business aviation charter industry, there are three key players in regard to external safety ratings.
These companies rigorously check the safety history, security, training, and experience, along with the operational capabilities of each company, resulting in a certified operator or broker.
Operators can be members of all three, for example, Clay Lacy. However, it is far more common for an operator to hold a certificate from just one, due to the stringent checks in place.
All safety symbols are highly respected within the business aviation industry.
Therefore, if a broker or operator has one of these certifications, they will have an excellent safety record and be among the best
ARGUS Rating (Cheq Register)
ARGUS has a three tier system of ratings – Gold, Gold Plus, and Platinum.
All ratings require an operating certificate for a minimum of one year, at least one turbine aircraft on the certificate, in-depth historical safety analysis, aircraft operational control validation, and pilot background checks.
In order to receive a Gold rating the operator must meet the following criteria:
- An operating certificate of at least a year
- An aircraft operational control validation
- At least one turbine aircraft on the certificate
- Pilot background check
- Historical safety analysis
Gold Plus additional requires ARGUS on-site audit with uncorrected findings.
Argus Platinum, the highest rating, also requires an emergency response plan and a functional safety management system.
Importantly, if an operator applies for an ARGUS rating and does not get it, they will be listed as “Does Not Qualify”.
At the time of writing, there are over 400 Gold-rated operators, 8 Gold plus, and over 140 Platinum-rated operators.
Therefore, it is an exclusive club to have an ARGUS rating.
Operators must provide vital data to ARGUS every 90 days, otherwise, they will lose their rating. This ensures that the ARGUS ratings are always up-to-date.
Additionally, charter brokers are eligible to become an ARGUS-rated charter broker. This program ensures that the broker works to ensure that they adhere to industry best practices and demonstrate a commitment to safety.
WYVERN operates in much the same way as ARGUS.
Audits will ensure that operators adhere to industry best practices and regularly check up on the companies.
Again, much like ARGUS, both operators and brokers can submit to be audited by WYVERN.
Thankfully, WYVERN publishes a record of all the approved operators and brokers.
Wyvern Registered Operators maintain fleet, crew, and insurance information, meaning that your flight will be far safer if your operator belongs to the Wingman program.
WYVERN also publishes Pilot and Aircraft Safety Survey (PASS) reports. These reports say whether or not an operator, aircraft, or crew has met the basic safety standards.
IS-BAO stands for the International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations.
There are three stages of safety ratings that operators are eligible for.
Stage 3 is the highest level. It indicates that the safety management systems are thoroughly ingrained in the company’s culture and will be sustained over time.
Stage 2 is awarded after years of safe operation, ensuring that safety risks are being effectively managed.
And finally, Stage 1. This indicates that an appropriate Safety Management System (SMS) has been established.
One of the differences between IS-BAO and the other safety audits is the standards that they adhere to. Both ARGUS and WYVERN audit according to FAA standards. Whereas IS-BAO audits are based on International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines. This, therefore, means that it is worldwide as opposed to national.
As a result, IS-BAO standards are often considered even more rigorous than ARGUS and WYVERN.
Checking the Safety Rating for Your Next Private Charter Flight
So, what should you do next time you are booking a private air charter to ensure the safety and security of the occupants?
As mentioned, checking the register of the three independent auditors of private jet services should be your top priority.
If you are booking through a broker, make sure you know the exact operator and check the registers.
Additionally, some companies may tell you that they are on the register. However, you cannot take this at face value and should check the register for yourself.
Moreover, always request safety reports from your operator to perform your own charter evaluation and qualification.
Having said that, just because a broker or operator isn’t on these registers does not make them unsafe. However, you will simply have to investigate the operator’s safety history, the specific aircraft, and the crew to ensure that everything is above board.
Therefore, if you are new to booking a private jet the easiest and safest option is to book through a broker or operator that is on at least one of the registers.
So, whether you are looking to go directly to a broker or operator, independent safety certifications are a great way to identify the best options.
ARGUS, WYVERN, and IS-BAO are the top independent safety audits in the industry.
Therefore, if you seek out a broker or operator that is approved by one of these organizations, you will likely be in safe hands.
Just remember to verify any broker or operator claims by checking the appropriate registries.
As ever, it is important to do your own due diligence when it comes to checking the different jet companies to ensure you are flying with the best charter company with high standards of safety.