Part 91 vs Part 135 Private Charter Operations in the US


Aviation regulations are complex, constantly changing and dependent on each country's governing aviation authority. However, in the United States, there are two main regulatory frameworks for private charter operations: Part 91 and Part 135.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between these two types of private charter flight operations you may come across when booking a private flight in the United States.

Federal Aviation Administration FAA

The aviation industry in the United States is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is responsible for maintaining safety standards in all aspects of civil aviation. This includes everything from air traffic control to aircraft certification, pilot training and maintenance.

The distinction between Part 91 and Part 135 are found in the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). The FARs are a set of comprehensive rules that dictate everything from aircraft certification to pilot qualifications.

The FARs are divided into a number of different parts, each covering a specific area of aviation regulation. Two of those parts that are relevant to private charter operations are Part 91 and Part 135.

What are Part 91 Private Charter Operations?

In short, part 91 aircraft operators are limited to non-commercial flight operations.

Because of the non-commercial restriction, part 91 aircraft cannot be used for hire or reward. This means that passengers cannot be charged a fee for their flight, and the aircraft cannot be used to generate revenue, nor can the operator receive any compensation or reimbursements for flights.

Part 91 flights are typically operated by individuals or companies who use their own aircraft for personal use or internal business requirements.

Flight operations under Part 91 are generally more flexible since they don't have as many stringent requirements as Part 135, making it less expensive and easier to operate under.

What are Part 135 Private Charter Operations?

In contrast to Part 91, Part 135 flight operations are considered to be commercial in nature. Part 135 aircraft operators are allowed to use their aircraft for hire, with non-scheduled flight operations, which means that passengers can be charged a fee for their flight. Examples are private air charter and air taxi flights.

In order to obtain a Part 135 certificate, operators must meet a number of stringent requirements set out by the FAA. These requirements are in place to ensure that commercial charter operations are conducted safely and in accordance with the highest standards.

Operators must have their aircraft and pilots certified and must comply with a number of other operational and safety regulations.

Part 135 operations offer much better insurance coverage for passengers and operators than Part 91, which are subject to more limited regulations and reduced liability insurance. Part 135 flights are considered commercial operations, meaning that they are also subject to additional regulation and scrutiny by insurance providers.

The organizational structure within a part 135 operation is also typically more formalized than with part 91 operations. Operators must have a management team in place, including a chief pilot, operations manager and maintenance manager in their organization.

The Key Differences Between Part 91 and Part 135

As mentioned above, the key difference between part 91 and part 135 operations is that Part 91 flights are considered non-commercial, while Part 135 flights are commercial.

This has a number of implications for the operator, passengers and insurance providers.

Some of the key differences include:

  • Passengers can only be charged on a Part 135-operated flight;
  • Passengers are better insured on a Part 135-operated flight;
  • Part 135 operations have better crew qualification, certification and training requirements;
  • Aircraft maintenance is more rigorous for Part 135 operators, improving your safety on board;
  • Part 135 operators have a more formalized organizational structure and oversight in place.

Why You Should Only Fly With Part 135 Operators

While any commercial private jet operator in the United States should be Part 135 certified, you should always be cautious when booking a private flight with a new operator.

As should be clear by now, Part 135 operations are subject to more stringent regulation than Part 91, making them a safer and more reliable choice for private charter. Because of these stringent requirements, Part 135 operators are subject to more extensive paperwork and higher costs, making it attractive for some unscrupulous operators to cut corners by flying under Part 91 rules.

These so-called "grey charter" operations can be extremely dangerous, as these flights are not subject to the same safety requirements and oversight as Part 135 operations. For this reason, you should always check that your operator is Part 135 certified before booking any flight within the United States.

We explored the concept of grey charter flights, the risks involved and how to avoid them in a previous blog post.

When booking your private flight in the United States through an air charter broker like The Aviation Factory (here's why you should), they will only work with reputable and reliable FAA-certified Part 135 operators who meet the highest safety standards.

You can contact our team anytime for any questions you may have regarding private jet charter.

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