What manuals, documents, and approvals are required for my proposed operation?
That depends on the type of operation. A typical operator who will have one or more turbine aircraft and more than one pilot will need the following documents:
- Letter of compliance, sometimes referred to as a statement of compliance
- General Operations Manual
- Training Manual
- Approved Aircraft Inspection Program
- Minimum Equipment List
Continue reading this FAQ for more information on the types of Part 135 certificates and requirements for documents and manuals.
Should I apply for all authorizations at once, or in stages?
If the goal is to minimize the wait until the Part 135 certificate is received, there can be a benefit to achieving the certification in stages. For instance, if the operator is going to have both turboprop and jet aircraft, it may be faster to put the turboprop aircraft into operation, achieve Part 135 certification, and then add the jet to the existing certificate. This is due to the additional certification requirements for jets, which could add weeks or months to the process. TCS LLC can help you decide if a staged approach will benefit your operation.
What pitfalls do I need to be aware of?
The process of certification is mostly straightforward, but there can be some issues if you don’t plan ahead. Some examples include operators who have not ensure that their training program was fully approved before booking training. Other operators have discovered very late in the process that their aircraft required an expensive avionics upgrade to become Part 135 compliant. Careful planning and communication between all personnel of the air carrier and the FAA will go a long way to preventing these occurrences.
Can I save money by doing some of the work myself?
Yes. The biggest trade-off to doing things yourself is that it may require more time. However, for an operator that needs to economize on the start-up costs, this may be a workable option.
What qualifications do I need, and what personnel are required to start a Part 135 charter operation?
Most operators will need a Director of Operations, a Chief Pilot, and a Director of Maintenance. These are referred to as your key management personnel. Certain smaller operators can have less than these three. The experience and qualification requirements are spelled out in detail in the FAA regulations, Part 119. The short version is that the Director of Operations and Chief Pilot will need to be a commercial pilot or ATP with at least three years’ experience as a PIC in Part 135 or Part 121 operations. This can be reduced by the FAA with certain restrictions placed on the operator.
Will my aircraft be suitable for a Part 135 charter operation?
There are two considerations when answering this question. One question is whether the aircraft will support your business model. This is a question that can only be answered by the operator, after conducting their own market research. The other question is airworthiness for operations under Part 135. This issue can become complex depending on the maintenance history of the aircraft. Prior to investing substantial funds into Part 135 certification, it is recommended that you consult with maintenance personnel highly experienced in your aircraft type, and request input from your local FAA office to ensure that your aircraft will be compliant with the airworthiness and maintenance requirements.
How long will certification take?
The amount of time it takes to achieve certification will largely depend on two variables: The quality of the documents/manuals you submit, and the workload of the FAA office that will be processing your application. Many FAA offices have a heavy workload, and new certifications are – by FAA policy – a lower priority than ensuring the safety and oversight of carriers that are currently conducting operations. This is a simple reality of the industry.
TCS has seen simple certifications take as few as 4-5 months, while some have taken substantially longer than that. The best thing you can do to reduce the time from initial application to achieving certification is to demonstrate to the FAA that you are prepared, knowledgeable, and able to respond quickly and accurately to their requests for information and corrections to your documents.
Can I complete any steps ahead of time, or while I am waiting for the FAA to conduct my initial application meeting?
Yes. You can work on developing the necessary manuals and documents. You can also create your schedule of events, which is required for the application. You should consider having regular meetings with your key management personnel, where you review regulations, certification requirements, training requirements, and work to ensure that you have as complete a view as possible of the requirements and the certification process. There is no such thing as being over-prepared. At TCS LLC, our goal is for you to be highly prepared for these meetings and be able to demonstrate this preparedness to the FAA from the very first contact.
What can I do while waiting for the FAA to review my application and manuals?
There are several things that you can do while waiting for the FAA to respond. One of the most important is to have regular meetings with your key management personnel (Director of Operations, Chief Pilot, and Director of Maintenance). In these meetings, reviewing manuals, conducting table-top scenarios of flight operations, and doing test runs of company processes will ensure that when the demonstration phase begins, you will be prepared and confident.