NATA’s newly formed Illegal Charter Task Force is hoping to see increased enforcements against so-called gray charter practices as it continues to work with the FAA to highlight the issue. The association pointed to a June 29 announcement of a proposed civil penalty for illegal charter activity, and said, “This penalty brings to light the ramifications for operating an illegal charter business, and it’s expected that more will come.”
The FAA is proposing a $3.3 million civil penalty against The Hinman Co. of Portage, Michigan, the agency said, “for conducting hundreds of commercial aircraft operations in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations, including failing to hold the required operator certificate for the flights being performed.” This activity occurred through Hinman’s subsidiary Hincojet and involved a Beechcraft Beechjet 400A and a Hawker 900XP, the agency added.
The company has 30 days to respond to the allegations, which include double-billing clients, charging more than permissible under Part 91, and failing to comply with Part 135 record-keeping and training requirements.
NATA in recent years has been meeting with the FAA over the issue, as illegal charter has been a long-standing concern. These concerns culminated in the formation of the Illegal Charter Task Force, which held its first meeting during NATA's annual meeting and aviation business conference last month.
During that meeting, the task force focused on defining illegal charter and distinguishing between intentional and unintentional non-compliance. “Illegal charters bypass the FAA’s safety standards in order to undercut the pricing of legitimate businesses by creating a potential safety hazard, putting legitimate operators at a competitive disadvantage, and dodging the payment of appropriate federal excise taxes,” NATA said. “The goal of the task force is to work in conjunction with industry and the FAA to identify operators that attempt to evade the rules and regulations that constitute a legal charter operation, and ensure the protection, safety, and integrity of an industry held to a very high standard.”