The European Business Aviation Association (EBAA) wants aircraft operators, airports, FBOs and brokers to be more active in reporting illegal charter activity. The group believes that illegal charters now account for at least 6 to 8 percent of all business aviation traffic in Europe, representing some 45,000 movements per year.
Illegal charter flying is happening in two ways in Europe. First, private aircraft operators (from both inside and outside the European Union) are flying for commercial reward without a valid aircraft operator’s certificate (AOC). Second, non-EU commercial operators are flying for hire within the EU without having valid traffic rights. EBAA president Brian Humphries warned that the amount of illegal charter flying is still increasing.
“If illegal flights flourish in total impunity, forcing costs down by reneging on safety and other critical standards, other operators may leave the market or echo the misconduct,” warned Humphries, emphasizing that safety is the key concern.
But unfair competition also comes into play, since by following less stringent requirements and escaping the costs of an AOC, illegal operators can operate less expensively. For example, by operating under a non-commercial flight plan illegal charter providers can take advantage of more flexible operating limits and safety margins (such as runway landing minimums). There are also serious concerns about the validity of insurance cover for illegal flights.
But EBAA is well aware that enforcement is difficult, not least because the operators concerned often do not have registered offices in the EU. This is why the association is urging the industry to be more assertive in reporting suspected illegal flying, with Humphries stating that suspicions might be raised, for example, when an operator files a flight plan late at night. He wants to see known illegal operators publicly named and more frequent ramp checks by officials.
EBAA is also calling for a “White List” of legal EU charter operators. The idea is that charter customers and brokers should be suspicious if they do not see the name of a company they are planning to use on this list.