As the aircraft charter industry in Latin America expands and becomes more organized, it is becoming clear that a major problem facing the segment is that of illegal charter operations.
According to Alexis Javkin, director of Toluca-based fractional operator MexJet, “It is one of the biggest issues we’re fighting now in Mexico. At MexJet and our parent company, Aerolínas Ejecutivas, we invest a lot of money in safety and certification. And while it is difficult to compete with operators who do not, we consider that safety and security are not negotiable.”
He also pointed out that while aircraft for charter are required by Mexican aviation authorities to be certified to carry passengers for hire, similar to Part 135 certification in the U.S., operations are not monitored very well.
In Brazil, fixed-wing and helicopter owners see virtually every major public event, from auto racing to athletic competition, as a business opportunity. Unfortunately, according to the Associação Brasileira de Táxis Aéreos (ABTAer, Brazilian Air Taxi Association), a growing number of the aircraft they use are not certified for charter and are operating illegally.
The association blames, in part, the lack of monitoring of such illegal operations by the Agência Nacional de Aviação Civil (ANAC, National Civil Aviation Agency), as well as inadequate rules governing general aviation in general.
Last December, the association protested specifically the illegal use of helicopters for passenger shuttle purposes during the Formula 1 World Championship auto race held the month before in São Paulo.
According to association president Commandant Milton Arantes, more than 90 percent of the helicopters used to transport passengers to the Autódromo José Carlos Pace (Interlagos) circuit for the event were privately owned aircraft not authorized to carry passengers for hire.
ABTAer subsequently filed a formal complaint with ANAC, asking that alleged violations be investigated and violators punished. Arantes also noted the matter of public safety, pointing out that those who choose to fly in a clandestine helicopter airlift do not know the standards of maintenance used by those operators, or the qualifications of the pilot, or whether the pilot and operator are licensed to carry passengers for hire. Those passengers, he added, “are thus unaware of the danger.”
Raises Accident Rate
According to a government survey, Brazilian civil aviation in 2012 reported a total of 168 accidents–a record number–and exceeded accidents in 2011 by 5.6 percent. Clandestine air transport and lack of oversight by ANAC is directly related to this increase, according to Arantes.
The current operational requirements set out by ANAC, he continued, “stimulate the growth of the pirate operator who is not afraid, does not follow the rules and cannot be punished.” Those rules, said ABTAer, are geared to airlines, leaving the legitimate air taxi industry smothered in unnecessary requirements, but doing little or nothing to stem dangerous illegal charter operations.
ABTAer is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization made up of more than 40 members from 16 of Brazil’s 26 states. It was formed three years ago on the initiative of air taxi entrepreneurs and their partners “who seek the solution to the problems that affect this segment.”
The association is also a member of ANAC’s Advisory Board, a new entity comprised of representatives appointed by the Air Force Command, as well as organizations representing segments of the industry, from general aviation, flying clubs and airports to maintenance and training institutions.