January 2021 Aviation Articles

Pilots Flying Leased Aircraft Beware! Due Diligence Is Required To Protect Your Certificates.

The FAA is continuing its special emphasis on investigating and pursuing enforcement action against illegal charter operations. Many of these illegal operations involve leasing arrangements that are not compliant with the regulations, and that are also sometimes referred to as “sham leasing” or “disguised charter.”

When the FAA discovers such operations, it does not hesitate to take legal enforcement action against any pilots who operated aircraft on these illegal charter flights.  The FAA’s action typically involves an emergency order of revocation immediately revoking all of the pilot’s airman certificates.

While the FAA may then assess a civil penalty against other parties involved in the illegal operations (i.e. the aircraft owner or the aircraft operator), make no mistake – the pilots are the FAA’s first targets. And that is potentially a significant risk.

But before a pilot decides that he or she will simply refuse to operate an aircraft under a lease arrangement, it is important to understand that it is possible to structure leasing arrangements that are fully compliant with the regulations. Legal aircraft leasing structures are put in place every day.  Do not let anyone, including the FAA, tell you different.

How Does A Pilot Know Whether A Leasing Structure Is Legal?

First, the pilot needs to learn about and understand both legal and illegal leasing structures.  Next, with that education and understanding the pilot needs to perform some due diligence to confirm the legality of the leasing structure for the aircraft he or she will be flying.

What Type of Due Diligence Should A Pilot Conduct?

A pilot needs to do enough to confirm that the aircraft leasing structure and operations are compliant with the regulations.  Due diligence tasks a pilot should pursue include the following:

  1. Get a copy of Advisory Circular 91-37B Truth in Leasing and review. Although truth in leasing may not apply to the leased aircraft that will be operated, this AC provides a good general understanding of leasing arrangements and operational control requirements;
  2. Obtain a copy of the applicable lease agreement for the aircraft to be flown and review. Confirm that the lessee is the party exercising operational control;
  3. If Truth-in-Leasing applies under FAR § 91.23, confirm that the lease was filed with the FAA Technical Branch and notice was given to the applicable FAA Flight Standards Office at least 48 hours before the first flight under the lease;
  4. If the FAA has issued any Letters of Authorization (“LOA”) for the aircraft, review to confirm that the LOA is issued to the party who will actually be operating the aircraft. This should be the lessee;
  5. Enter into a separate pilot services agreement confirming the pilot’s agency on behalf of the aircraft lessee/operator;
  6. Although not a regulatory requirement, it also makes sense to review the insurance policy and endorsements issued for the aircraft to confirm that the policy actually covers the operations to be conducted by the lessee; and
  7. Make sure the aircraft leasing and operating arrangements passes a “gut check.” If the documentation is correct, are the parties actually operating consistent with the documents?  Or are the operations really being conducted as sham leasing or illegal charter?  Is a true leasing arrangement in place between aircraft owner and lessee, or is someone in the middle with whom the lessee coordinates all aircraft operations?

If the due diligence reveals a legitimate leasing structure, then a pilot can fly for the lessee operator with the knowledge that the pilot is not putting his or her airman certificates at risk.  Additionally, if the FAA ever asks about the operations (i.e. in connection with a ramp check, or perhaps after an anonymous tip by an unhappy competitor) the pilot will be able show the FAA inspector the due diligence he or she performed and explain how the operations are structured and conducted in compliance with the regulations.

However, if the due diligence does not check out, then the pilot should be wary about flying under the existing structure. Although it may be possible to restructure the leasing arrangement to bring it into compliance, until that happens any flights by the pilot could put his or her certificates at risk.

And if the aircraft owner or lessee do not permit the pilot to perform the due diligence, then the pilot should be especially cautious.  Since the pilot’s certificates will be the FAA’s first target if the operations are conducted illegally, the pilot should demand that he or she be permitted to confirm that the leasing structure is compliant.  Without that due diligence, the pilot may want to fly for someone else.

Conclusion

The FAA will continue its emphasis on and oversight of aircraft leasing operations.  It will also pursue legal enforcement action when it discovers sham leasing or illegal charter operations. Although pilots may still operate aircraft that are part of legitimate aircraft leasing structures, pilots should do their due diligence before they operate aircraft to ensure that it is not part of a non-compliant leasing structure.

If a particular lease arrangement is questionable, or if it is non-compliant, pilots should get help from a knowledgeable aviation attorney to review the arrangement and to help correct the leasing structure and operations, so they are compliant with the regulations.

Best Headsets for Your Money in 2021

Well well well, the article we've all been waiting for: how to buy a decent headset without breaking the bank!

Future tip, everything in aviation breaks the bank. Run away while you still can ;)

1) Bose QC35 & NFlight Mic

Looking for some Bose A20's without the price tag? Well, here you go. These headphones are very similar. By buying the Bose QC35 ii and the NFlight Nomad Aviation Microphone, you get the benefit of having normal headphones that double as a headset for about $500, half the price of the A20's! With this, you get noise-cancelling and professional microphone quality. And don't worry, if the headphones die, the microphone still works so you're not left with dead comms. But here's the downside:

  1. this headset is not TSO'd for those who are required to have it for work
  2. the microphone disables Bluetooth when plugged in

HOWEVER, both of these are fixable. You can make this TSO'd by purchasing the NFlight Nomad with David Clark Microphone instead for a higher price than the regular Nomad Pro. Any purchases through NFlight Mic are refundable within 30 days and have a lifetime warranty in which the company will replace the mic attachment, even if the damage is due to abuse. You can also get your Bluetooth back by buying a 3rd piece that costs less than $8. Because the mic disables Bluetooth when plugged in, the Apple Headphone Jack Adapter can plug into the mic box then into your phone and now you get music back in flight!

While the Bose headphones and NFlight Mic have the most popular reviews, you don't have to use these exact brands. A similar company called UFly Mike makes these microphone attachments and also has quality customer service. These microphones are approved to work on any headphones that have a 2.5mm auxiliary audio output. A technical specification says they "can also be easily converted to be compatible with headsets with 3.5mm auxiliary audio inputs with the use of a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter. Popular headsets with a 2.5mm-to-3.5mm adapter:  Sony 1000XM2 and 1000XM3" so you have a range of options depending on what you may already own!

2) David Clark H10-13.4

Okay, first and foremost you can never go wrong with David Clark. The DC H10-13.4 model is your basic and best flight training headset, I won't be convinced otherwise. If you're on the hunt for a headset that will:

  • last forever
  • is comfortable to wear for hours
  • has a good cable length
  • has a foam cushion for the top of your head
  • come from a company with great customer service
  • offers excellent sound quality

then this is the headset for you. Given this does not offer Bluetooth or noise-cancelling, but now you don't have to worry about replacing batteries. Almost no maintenance is ever needed (although I'd recommend cleaning the earpads after a sweaty flight for hygiene purposes). Every time you're ready to fly, just grab this and go. The link attached for this one (in the above paragraph) includes a headset bag which is a must-have. It has different zippers to hold your medical, certificates, photo ID, and whatever else you need. 

For flight training students needing a headset that is cheap but won't break every 6 months, I recommend this every time. In fact, almost all of my students have purchased this exact model and love it. 

3) FARO Stealth Audio Link

Disclaimer: this one isn't a full-on headset. This is a product advertised by Sporty's that can convert any headset -- any brand, passive or active noise reduction -- to a Bluetooth headset. While I've used David Clark's and the NFlight mic conversion, I haven't had the ability to try this out. It's on the to-do list to order and review soon! 

So far the FARO Stealth Audio Link has 4 out of 5 stars with multiple reviews. The downside it seems is the cables can be kind of bulky and it needs improvement on the squelch transmission. But overall you get Bluetooth capability on older headsets that didn't have it installed and it pairs easily with your phone. 

4) FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset

Last but not least! I had a student send this to me recently and decided to look into it because I was intrigued. This is a basic headset that offers good sound quality but also Bluetooth for less than $250. The FARO Stealth 2 Passive Headset offered through Sporty's is kind of new to the market.

Tested by multiple CFI's (even during covid having to wear a mask), feedback said the Bluetooth sound quality is great and the mic picks up sound easily. What this headset lacks is noise-canceling, which if you're flying GA then do you really need it? Not all small planes are super loud and it's good to be able to hear the engine the entire flight so you can detect if it's trying to tell you something is wrong. This headset may be best for pilots building time and doing longer flying days who aren't looking to spend a lot of money. 

Looking for any other Pilot Supplies? Click on that link and check out our directory of tons of pilot supplies ranging from "A Cut Above" uniforms to aviator sunglasses and, of course, headsets!

Best of luck in your search for a new headset! Questions about any of these or have a headset you'd like to see added to this post? Comment below. 

Part 91 vs Part 135: What Are the Biggest Differences?

Let's talk Part 91 vs Part 135. These are two completely different worlds, like day and night.

Part 135 is highly structured and very similar to the 121 airline world, versus part 91 where things aren't as structured but you have less privileges. Let's dig into some of the biggest differences.

1) Ownership Operations

As an aircraft owner you absolutely cannot charter out your plane to people for the purpose of making money. If you buy a plane and want to make money off of this to use as an investment, then it should be used for the purpose of flight instruction. Can your friend fly it on a trip and pay you all expenses plus $600 so you have something to pocket? NO.

But what if they pay you in cash? I include this because as a CFI I get lots of questions about loopholes to regs. Paying cash isn't a loophole, it's still illegal. Whenever you encounter situations like this and think it may or may not be illegal, think of it like this: what if the aircraft crashes or has an incident and the FAA begins asking questions? will you be able to confidently explain everything about the flight to them and not have anything to worry about? If the answer is no, don't agree to the flight until you consult someone highly knowledgable in the regs and are 100% confident the situation you are faced with is legal.

-Remember that you can submit questions about regulations to the FAA and they will write back. It will take weeks to months but is a highly resourceful tool.

If you're looking into try to offset costs/generate revenue from your aircraft look into putting it on a 135 certificate! There are several different types of certifices you can apply for through this FAA 135 General Information Link. Also read Starting a 135 Operation by the NBAA to help guide you through this too. 

2) Flight Operations

This list goes on and on for this subpart in the FAR/AIM but I'll highlight a few. 

-Oxygen Requirements

In Part 91.211 for an unpressurized aircraft, like a Piper Saratoga for example, pilots are not required to wear oxygen until passing 12,500 feet MSL. From 12,500 ft - 14,000 ft if there longer than 30 minutes than a mask is required, or any altitude past 14,000 a mask must be worn at all times. 

With 14 CFR 135.89 the 30 minute duration period is brought down to 10,000 ft - 12,000 ft and now must be worn continuously past 12,000 ft rather than 14,000 ft. Therefore, the regulations are more strict in Part 135. But remember that 135 is given more priviliges including generating revenue, so it makes sense!

The requirements for a pressurized aircraft are more strict in 135 versus 91 as well. 

3) IFR Takeoff, Approach & Landing Minimums

As an instrument pilot, these are VERY important to know. Your minimums are going to come from 14 CFR 91.175 and 14 CFR 135.225. These are linked because there is a lot to these regulations to know that need to be read from the primary source itself. 

-What are standard takeoff minimums? The quick and easy answer for 135/121 operations is 1 statute mile visibility for one or two engines, or 1/2 mile for three or more engines. 

-Are there takeoff minimums for part 91? A quick answer again for this....no. You can legally takeoff zero/zero unless you've been assigned and accepted a SID. But a smart pilot won't do this, so read further into your regs.

Note that when it comes to minimums, visibility is always prevailing. When I break out of a low ceiling, can I see a deer crossing the runway? Yes. Because I can see now! What if visibility is poor? Maybe not. You don't just "break out" of visibility like you break out of clouds. 

Approach minimums: You may not begin an instrument approach unless the airport has an approved weather facility AND the latest weather is above minimums. A loophole to this is eligible on-demand can begin the approach without an approved weather facility if the alternate has one and have an approved altimeter setting. If you are shooting the approach and weather deteorates below minimums, you can only continue under certain circumstances such as if you're beyond the final approach fix. Otherwise, you have to go around. 

These 3 bullet points are just 3 key differences between the Part 91 and Part 135 world. There's various other regulations that should be thoroughly looked over as well if you're transitioning from one operation to the other in order to not only stay legal but remain proficient.

Questions or comments? Confused by any of the regs in either of these parts that you'd like broken down? Write to us below! We always enjoy feedback from readers. 

Cheers to 2021 and Happy New Year from everyone at Globalair.com!

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