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Private Jet Safety for Part 135 Operations

We make it a point to remain very aware of the fact that nearly all aviation incidents can be attributed to human error; so, much of our focus for Private Jet Safety is on the crews. Experience is extremely important, but many fail to realize that the FAA’s Part 135 minimum requirements are already very high. In fact, these requirements far exceed what is required by fractional carriers such as NetJets and Flexjet who operate under Part 91 rules.

At the end of the day, the real question should not be what do we need to do to make a flight “safe”, but rather what could potentially lead to it becoming “unsafe”.

In my opinion, Part 135 pilots are among the best pilots in the world because every day offers new experiences, new airports, etc., so they build tremendous practice identifying and responding to variables. All this keeps them sharp, but experience is only part of the equation.

 

The Variables

The variables and how these can compound and affect the other are just as important. There is no way to cookie cut or standardize this with a computer program or minimum requirement. Every single trip is truly a ‘thumbprint’. So, with regard to the safety of our clients, we understand that potential risks are not singular, but rather in the infinite possible combination of variables.

The true essence of private aviation is the ability to adapt to variables. Business Aviation is set up to be the solution to an infinite combination of variables. Commercial travel is just the opposite. Airlines do have some variables, such as weather, but for the most part it is the same planes on the same routes day-in and day-out. Real safety risks can result from monotony.

Risks can come from anywhere, so the ability to identify them, of course, is very important, especially because it could be something one has never seen before. Our experience has taught us that these risks can even come from the client themselves.

For example, about five years ago Airstream Jets was contracted for a roadshow by a very high-profile client and his entourage. Issues arose from the client’s money-managers, who decided it would be better if they held all the cash for the entire 23-segment operation, rather than let us use only one transaction to contract a single jet for all the legs of the show, as was originally agreed.

After only two segments completed, I decided my company needed to walk away from the roadshow and the profits promised us. Because with little notice and late evening departures, it’s extremely difficult to source a large cabin heavy jet that allows smoking. You don’t just hop in and go. While it is certainly not an impossible task to do, the daily workload requirement would result in a huge increase of pressure and stress on everyone involved, including the pilots. As a business owner, it’s difficult to turn your back on profit, but my father showed me that sometimes it’s necessary, and in the end the good judgement will be worth it. If you make compromises, eventually you will be compromised.

During my father’s career, he owned and operated nearly 100 different business aircraft in his Part 135 charter company during a 40-year period of time. In the history of his company he never had a single incident resulting in injury either on the ground or in the air, and not a single major violation from the FAA. Needless to say, when he offers advice, I listen up.

Looking back, at no point in that roadshow operation would we have been outside minimum requirements, and at no point could the flights be considered “unsafe”. Yet I know I made the right decision in walking away from that job because the stresses being placed on the ops were an additional and unnecessary variable that may have only become dangerous when combined with some other variable, such as, unfavorable or changing weather. By itself this is something that we deal with all the time, but when you factor in time-constraints for planning and other stresses, and then maybe an unexpected variable presents itself – all of a sudden what should be a normal flight turns into an emergency, and that is how accidents happen.

 

Prevention

Once a combination of variables shows an unacceptable level of risk, it must be attended to so that level of risk is eliminated. A simple example of this would be a case where maybe the weather and visibility is less than ideal at a trip’s destination, such as we saw with the accident in Akron, Ohio last year which killed all 9 aboard. There were a lot of variables that came together in a deadly fashion which led to this tragedy. If I cited them all, I would need a couple more pages but in a nutshell the increased risks should have been identified before the aircraft even left the ground. However, these variables were either overlooked or ignored and the result was a terrible tragedy. Nearly all of the variables that led to the crash would have become insignificant had the crew just opted use (CAK) Akron/Canton Regional Airport instead, which is only 7 miles away and has ILS approach.

No matter what the situation, once passengers are on-board the aircraft, the Captain is in control and has the final say on everything. However, if that was our flight we would have had the ability to make everyone well aware of the risks involved and how simple it would be to mitigate those risks.

 

Third-Part Auditors

The third-party private jet safety ratings companies such as ARG/US and Wyvern are a mixed-bag. We do find some value in that they provide a quick and easy way for us to verify crews and aircraft are current and meet minimum requirements laid out by the FAA for Part 135 operations. On the other hand, we are well-aware of the fact that these are pay-to-play products, and that the only real difference between a Platinum and Gold rated operation is $15,000. With this in mind, we place less value ratings levels.

Interestingly, we’ve noticed in recent years the number of customers asking about third party ratings has fallen off dramatically. Nowadays, it seems we are just as likely to hear a customer tell us the ratings are just “purchased” and don’t mean a flight is safe, than we are to have a client ask for a safety report.

At the end of the day, the real question should not be what do we need to do to make a flight “safe”, but rather what could potentially lead to it becoming “unsafe”.

About the Author

Peter Maestrales

Peter Maestrales

CEO & Founder

Boca Raton native, Peter Maestrales, got an early start on his aviation career with his first flying lesson coming at age 10 and by spending much of his childhood at executive airports in South Florida. The Maestrales family has been active in the Business Aviation community in South Florida for over 40 years.

In 2001, Peter began working in scheduling and dispatch for Commercial Aviation Enterprises, Inc. (CAE), a South Florida based corporate jet operator specializing in Aircraft Management, 24hr Charter Services, Air Cargo, and Air-Ambulance missions. During the next four years he handled charter sales, operations scheduling, flight coordinating, and aircrew planning. Peter was promoted to Director of Charter Sales & Jet Management for CAE in 2005 and gained experience managing charter and sales personnel, strategic planning for new clients, and corporate aircraft transactions.

However in 2008, Pete made a serious step towards a Business Aviation career when he founded Airstream Jets, Inc at Boca Raton Airport (KBCT). Tapping into his unique perspective, Peter has developed a simple strategy focused on two core Business Aviation services to help customers select the most efficient and cost-effective method to travel: On-Demand Private Air Charter & Professional Aircraft Management.

Since 2008, ASJ has built an outstanding reputation as a leading Business Aviation Company and has expanded to international markets by opening new offices in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto, Canada. A central focus of the organization is maintaining “win-win” relationships with industry partners through a business approach based upon a mutual exchange of value, respect, honesty, cooperation, and efficiency.

Peter is also a member of the National Business Aviation Association and also works as an independent Business Aviation Consultant for hedge funds and other leading financial institutions in the United States. On behalf of his clients, Peter provides Business Aviation market analysis, forecasting, information for strategic planning, and intelligence on corporate fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters worldwide.

EMAIL:  pm@airstreamjets.com