AMI Jet Charter’s trouble with the FAA didn’t start on October 12, when the agency revoked AMI’s charter certificate, nor the week before, when it suspended AMI’s certificate, nor in March when the FAA began an investigation of AMI or even in September 2005, when the Department of Transportation fined AMI $250,000 for violation of foreign-ownership regulations.
Charter and Fractional » Charter
News and issues concerning the aviation charter industry and markets, including company announcements, regulations, new developments and labor issues.
Sentient Flight Group announced yesterday that it has agreed “in principle” to buy TAG Aviation USA’s aircraft management business from Switzerland-based TAG Aviation Holding. The deal does not seem to include TAG Aviation USA’s charter affiliate, AMI Jet Charter, which recently had its charter certificate revoked. TAG Aviation USA owns 49 percent of AMI; the rest of the company is owned by AMI executives.
Sentient, a leading provider of business aircraft transportation through membership block charter, was purchased last month from CSFB Private Equity by TH Lee Putnam Ventures, a New York-based private equity firm. Sentient claims more than 1,400 aircraft available from among its approved charter aircraft providers. Participants in its Private Jet Membership purchase TravelCards valued at $100,000, $250,000 and $500,000, respectively.
AMI Jet Charter had problems with the U.S. Department of Transportation previously and was assessed a $250,000 fine per a consent order issued by the DOT in September 2005 that addressed the issue of influence by foreign owners of the company. DOT regulations require that air carriers be controlled by U.S. citizens, including U.S. citizen corporations. Although 51 percent of AMI is owned by two U.S.
Delta AirElite, which has operated an aircraft management and charter service since 1991 when it was still Comair Jet Express, took a step toward further expansion last month with the announcement of its Delta AirElite Fleet Membership block-charter program.
The aviation industry is beginning to react to the FAA’s October 4 suspension and then last Friday’s revocation of AMI Jet Charter’s Part 135 certificate, in which the FAA cited illegal foreign influence over the company’s charter operations. “I am extremely angered by the [FAA’s] decision last Friday to revoke the operating certificate of AMI Jet Charter,” wrote NATA president James Coyne in a letter to NATA members yesterday.
Last night, the FAA revoked the charter certificate of AMI Jet Charter in a letter hand-delivered to AMI president Don Hitch. The letter outlines the FAA’s determination “that an emergency exists related to safety in air commerce and that immediate action to revoke AMI Jet Charter, Inc.’s Air Carrier Certificate is required.” This move follows the FAA’s October 4 suspension of AMI’s charter certificate.
Sentient, launched four years ago as a business aviation charter broker, is now second only to fractional-ownership giant NetJets in the number of business jet flights flown annually, according to president and CEO Mark Stone.
Despite repeated requests from AIN, the FAA said that no officials would conduct any interviews about last week’s emergency suspension of AMI Jet Charter’s Part 135 certificate. Asked specifically what AMI had done that made it so unsafe, the FAA refused to comment, except to say, “Revocation/suspension is our last resort. Our goal is to obtain compliance with regulations and ensure safety, not suspend or revoke a certificate.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-83 on the EBACE static ramp was the newest addition to the charter fleet of Vienna, Austria-based Jetalliance. Although currently registered in Mauritius, it will shortly be put on the Austrian civil register. Always an executive airplane and never an airliner, the twinjet can accommodate up to 40 passengers in its 101-foot-long cabin.