Gray Charter Market may have killed Argentinian Footballer

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Doomed Piper Malibu was not authorised to fly commercially

Complex Facts and even more Confusing laws

Gray market exists in US and UK

Argentinian Footballer needed Red Flags

 “UK accident investigators believe that the Piper Malibu PA-46-310P (N264DB) that crashed on 21 January in the sea off the coast of Guernsey carrying Argentinian footballer Emiliano Sala was not permitted to operate commercially, but the pilot David Ibbotson had previously conducted flights on a ride-sharing basis. However, it has yet to establish the cause of the crash.

In its interim report into the incident, published on 25 February, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) says it is still seeking to establish the licensing arrangements and nature of the agreement that led to Ibbotson performing the flight.

However, “evidence at the time of writing” reveals that permission had neither been sought nor granted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to operate the US-registered aircraft commercially.

Owner/operator: Southern Aircraft Consultancy INC Trustee

The report notes that while Ibbotson had both US and European private pilot’s licences (PPLs) – the latter issued by the CAA – this does not allow a pilot to carry fare-paying passengers.

“A higher level of regulatory burden applies to commercial, compared with private flights, such as more stringent medical, licensing and airworthiness requirements,” says the AAIB. A PPL holder flying a passenger for financial gain would be operating an illegal charter.

The AAIB is also examining whether the flight was conducted under a “cost-sharing“, agreement, given that Ibbotson had been known to carry passengers under these arrangements.

The system of cost- or ride-sharing allows passengers to contribute towards the pilot’s direct operating costs – such as fuel and landing fees – on a pre-determined trip advertised by the pilot. “Cost-sharing brings benefits to private pilots who, by sharing the expense of their flying, can fly more than they might otherwise be able to, thereby increasing their level of experience,” says the AAIB.

However, it points out that while EASA permits cost-sharing on aircraft registered in a third country, such as the USA, the relevant rules state that there may also be a requirement to comply with any regulations of the state of registry.

The FAA prohibits holders of a PPL from acting as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers for compensation or hire, except in certain circumstances: first, if the flight involves the pilot and one passenger, then the pilot must pay half the operating expenses. The pilot must also have a “bona fide purpose” for making the flight and must dictate when the flight is to go. “The flight must not be made for the purpose of merely transporting the passenger,” says the AAIB.

Ibbotson’s US licence was issued on the basis of his EASA PPL. However, his logbook and licence were not recovered from the aircraft, and the ratings on his licences and their validity dates have not yet been established. “If the flight was planned to be operated on a cost-sharing basis, FAA rules regarding pro rata costs and a common purpose were applicable,” the report adds.”

Sala crash report says plane not licensed for commercial use

The AAIB said further work is required to “consider the regulatory requirements surrounding the flight including airworthiness requirements, aircraft permissions and flight crew licensing.”

Half of the operating expenses must have been paid by the pilot for it to be considered a private flight with only two people aboard.

“The flight must not be made for the purpose of merely transporting the passenger,” the AAIB said.

Mark McKay, one of the brokers of the transfer, said last month that he helped to organize a “private flight” for Sala, who had returned to Nantes after signing the deal in Cardiff.

There was no application to the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States or Britain’s Civil Aviation Agency “to operate the aircraft for commercial reasons,” the AAIB said. The CAA has the power to investigate and prosecute any breaches of aviation safety rules.




The real owners of the Emiliano Sala plane revealed as crash investigators probe how flight was organised

Mystery has surrounded the ownership of the US-registered Piper Malibu N264DB aircraft since it crashed into the English Channel on January 21.

While a company called Southern Aircraft Consultancy Inc Trustee were listed as the owners on documents registered with authorities, the actual owners are a Derbyshire-based company named Cool Flourish.

The company’s two active directors are Fay Keely and Heather Keely. It is unclear exactly what the company, set up in 1998, actually does, although it is listed as a management consultancy firm with Companies House. A telephone number for 45-year-old Fay Keely appears to no longer be in use.

Chartered accountant Fay Keely’s name appears on documents obtained by WalesOnline which show the ‘sale’ of the aircraft to Southern Aircraft Consultancy in 2015.  Nobody else has owned the aircraft since that time, according to official papers.

Suffolk-based Southern Aircraft Consultancy offers non-US citizens the ability to legally register their aircraft in the US with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It then holds the plane in trust for the real owner, and promises never to pass on information about the owners to the public.”

Why was a multi-million ₤ footballer’s flight on a plane and with a pilot who do not appear to hold the requisite licenses or authorities? The answers cannot be fathomed, but the average, ordinary consumer is likely to be perplexed by the vagaries of the FAA’s “gray market” charters rules. Here is a post on this complex legal subject:


Red Flags for Charter Consumers

FAA Warns of Red Flags Pointing To Rogue Operators

Flags= Technical and Regulatory

Called Gray Market because hard to detect

Some Flags which Consumers can use

To be able to ascertain whether the proposed flight is 100% legal requires an exceedingly knowledgeable expert, maybe even an aviation lawyer. Here are a few Red Flags that may serve as warnings of potential problems:

Not fully stop signs, but things to raise your concern:

  • There is NO Part 135 certificate on the hangar wall. It is a requirement that the document must be visible.
  • The contract to “rent” the plane is short; the FAR requirements to be legal consume pages.
  • The crew, air and ground, refer to you as the operator and/or ask you if you want to fly in these conditions. The certificate holder and the legal Part 91 flight must be under the control of an owner.
  • A scenario not mentioned above: someone with the title of “agent” or “broker” is the initial contact or becomes part of the transaction. The legal documents and requirements require stricter.
  • A truly compliant operation pays attention to details- clean interiors and exterior, no “gorilla” tape repairs, pilots bags are well organized and they are presentable. Not everyone thinks that cleanliness is close to airworthiness, but a sloppy appearance should signal asking more questions.

Valuable assets like aircraft require carefully constructed legal documents. The fly-by-night types are not inclined to be detail oriented.

At the end of the FAA Press Release, there are two useful telephone numbers to use if you have questions. It’s free and very valuable.

They are indeed difficult to detect, but the FAA has elevated their efforts to attack the Gray Market.

FAA $3.3 M civil penalty catalyst for warning

FAA Dragnet on the Gray Market

Gray Charters become a Federal Case


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