Private jet on runway

No queues. No delays. But immensely comfortable and convenient with plenty of privacy, the pleasure of flying on a private charter flight is indisputable.

Even Warren Buffett, long touted as a humble man who lives in the same house and uses the same car for years, is addicted to the benefits of private charter flights. In fact, he liked it so much that he bought the company NetJets in 1995, which is now the world’s largest private jet operator.

But beyond the attractive factors of convenience and comfort, the risks of private charter flights are real, with charter flights crashing and taking high-profile clients with them often making headline news. Some notable incidents include:

  • Natalia Fileva, the 4th richest woman in Russia, was killed when her plane went down in Frankfurt, Germany, on 31 March 2019.
  • Emiliano Sala, Cardiff City’s newest signing was killed when his plane went down in Alderney, Guernsey, on 21 January 2019.
  • 20 people on the return leg of a sightseeing trip died when their vintage aircraft crashed near Piz Segnas, Switzerland, on 4 August 2018.

While commercial aviation is heavily regulated and airlines are subject to multiple tiers of domestic and international laws and statutes, private and charter flights do not operate under the same guidelines, and as such, the risks are much higher for passengers travelling via charter and small private aircraft.

When an accident happens, questions are often raised over the legitimacy of the flight and the regulations that underpin their transport of the passengers on board. In the case of Emiliano Sala, preliminary reports indicated that the pilot involved did not have a commercial pilot’s licence nor was the aircraft permitted to make a commercial flight.

As such, it is important to consider the risks associated with charter flights, particularly with respect to the reputability of the carrier you choose and the credentials they possess. In this article, we set to discuss the risks, how you can best manage these risks, as well as an outline of the best practices when arranging a charter flight for private or business.

Who uses charter flights?

While the media tends to focus on the private jet set of wealthy individuals and celebrities, most private charter flights are actually used by business executives who value convenience, privacy and personal security, and in some cases speed – when time is of the essence and they need to meet tight deadlines.

As private charter is a lucrative business, many small aircraft owners and pilots are involved in activities known as ‘illegal charter’ – using aircraft that aren’t registered to undertake commercial flights and pilots not licensed to fly fee-paying passengers. This problem is inherent within the charter flights industry, prompting BACA (Air Charter Association) and EBAA (European Business Aviation Association) to join forces and promise to crackdown on illegal charter flights.

What are the risks of charter flights?

The main problem plaguing the charter flight industry is not just the reliability of providers, particularly with respect to their alignment with necessary regulations, but the actual disparity between commercial and private flight regulations itself. The fact that private and charter flights are not subject to the same rules and requirements by a governing aviation body means that the quality gap is significant and as such, so is the reliability of the operation.

Pilot error is another major risk. When a pilot of a small private jet losses control, they don’t have a co-pilot to back them up. In addition, when you lose one engine on a single-engine aircraft, you’re in a worse position than losing one engine on a twin-engine plane.

How can I manage the risks of a charter flight?

There are a number of considerations that you should make before arranging a charter flight, particularly if you make charter flights regularly. As a businessperson, you will understand that proper due diligence is paramount when it comes to selecting a business partner, so why should that not apply for a service provider upon which your business will rely.

At Blackhawk Intelligence, we recognise that your business may require you to hire a charter plane from time to time, so we’d like to share the following tips which may assist in minimising the risks associated with charter planes, especially when you are dealing with a charter operator in a different country.

Safety Standards & Ratings

Before engaging any charter plane, ask the charter operator for audit ratings, including a log of all accidents or recordable incidents. Furthermore, you should also ask for a full maintenance and care record and be sure to clarify who is responsible for maintaining their fleet of aircraft: is it a factory service centre, an in-house mechanic, or a local repair facility? If the answer is an in-house mechanic (which is highly likely), check out when the aircraft avionics were last updated. Blackhawk can help you by verifying the safety reports as well as doing a risk assessment associated with a particular operator in a foreign country.

Pilot & Crew

Historically, pilot error has accounted for approximately half of all fatal plane crashes. Therefore, it’s vital that you ask the charter operator what training and rest requirements they have for their pilots. In addition, ask to see the background check documentation they have for their pilots and crewmembers. You should also inquire about the necessary qualifications these pilots have in the event of an emergency or medical situation. Questions ranging from first aid, CPR, use of a defibrillator (AED) and emergency procedures are all valid and important. In the UK, employment due diligence is Blackhawk’s strength and we can definitely help to verify this with background checks. If the charter operator is located in another country, we have operatives in the field working with local authorities that can produce a localised Strategy Security Report for you.

Certification & Insurance

If you are hiring a private jet from the UK, it is relatively easy to request a copy of the Certification of Airworthiness, as well as evidence of current hull and liability insurance. Similar certificates may not be evident or regulated in another country. In this case, the team at Blackhawk can help you to verify the authenticity of any documentation provided as part of our risk assessment exercise.

Contact Blackhawk Intelligence

Travelling safely and with the right provider is critical to the health of your business and your team, which is why proper due diligence and research are the best practices when it comes to finding a reliable and reputable charter flight operator.

With a dedicated team of specialists and a proven track record of locating reliable, charter flight operators with our comprehensive due diligence services, we can help you lower the risks associated with charter flights, and ensure your trip is as safe as possible.

Contact us on +44 (0)20 8108 9317 today.

To find out more about our services, or to arrange a consultation with Blackhawk please call 020 7788 8983.