Difficult for FAA to detect Illegal Charters
ACSF, AOPA, NATA, NBAA and FAA campaign to educate buyers
Million Dollar Sanction and Likely Informant = GREATER DETERENCE
Safety Regulations have unintended consequences; rules intended to assure the highest level of safety also NECESSARILY impose costs. That differential creates pressures to avoid these requirements. The realm of this tension is between the more rigorous standards (14 CFR Part 135 and related 14 CFR § 91.501 ) and the lesser limits (14 CFR Part 91).
It is extremely difficult to detect which flights are legal and those that violate. That requires careful inspections of FAA authorizations (certificates/not, manuals, maintenance practices, pilot training, etc.). The above graphic of a plane being interdicted is totally unrealistic.
The FAA and Industry have launched a preventative campaign to educate users to distinguish legal from illegal operators:
While these constitute useful preventative tactics, the interdiction by the FAA of these flights before they depart should be important method sto stop the cheaters. The below recent FAA proposed MILLION DOLLAR CIVIL PENALTY appears to be such an attack.
Perhaps, the greatest impact is the seven figure fine. A owner/operator, seeking to avoid the higher costs, will recognize that the sanction would cripple if not crush their future flights. An even more attention getting case was the Gray Charters Become A Federal Case
It is interesting to speculate (something generally to be avoided in aviation matters) from whence the detection came from?
- First, the airport from which these flights originated was New Bedford, MA (EWB). It is not an airfield conducive to hiding a series of flights with different passengers every week during the summer months. The airport manager, the FBO and the staff who work on the ramps are very likely to observe these “gray charters.”
- Second, EWB has two Part 135 airlines whose business heavily depends on those very same passengers. The commuter airlines tend to connect better with their frequent flyers and are likely to have recognized those who had diverted to the charter market. A quick call from an airline employee to the local FSO or the FAA/ACSF hotline. 888-SKY-FLT1 (888-759-3581)
It is very possible that the information about these illegal flights came from these sources.
Press Release – FAA Proposes $1 Million Civil Penalty Against Weathervane Aviation Services for Alleged Illegal Charters
For Immediate Release
January 25, 2021
Contact: Emma Duncan
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes a $1,001,000 civil penalty against Weathervane Aviation Services, LLC, of Westport, Mass., for allegedly operating illegal charter flights.
The FAA alleges that between May 9, 2016 and Aug. 31, 2018, Weathervane conducted approximately 1,400 illegal flights in two, twin-engine Cessna 402C airplanes between New Bedford Regional Airport (EWB) and Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK). The flights were illegal because Weathervane lacked a required air-carrier certificate and used unqualified pilots, the FAA alleges.
All but 52 flights occurred after the FAA had notified Weathervane President Richard Araujo that he required an air-carrier certificate to conduct the operations. Approximately 455 of the flights occurred after the FAA alerted Araujo that the agency was investigating his company for possible illegal operations.
In addition to operating without an air carrier certificate, the FAA alleges Weathervane lacked an FAA-approved pilot-training program and procedures and policies manual. Furthermore, the company used pilots who had not passed required written, oral, and flight checks and instrument proficiency checks, the agency alleges.
The FAA alleges Weathervane’s operations were careless or reckless so as to endanger the life or property of another.
Weathervane has 30 days after receiving the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.
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