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Pros and Cons of Placing Your Aircraft On Someone Else's Charter Certificate

by David Wyndham 1. February 2010 00:00
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If you are like many business aircraft operators, your aircraft is not being used as much as in the past. Your costs are up and utilization is down, and you are under pressure to keep the budget under control. Your friendly local charter operator suggests having you place your aircraft on their Part 135 charter certificate to gain income from charter.

Why Would You Want To?

To off set your operating costs. A typical charter agreement has the owner paying for all the operating costs. The owner gets the revenue from the charter less a 15% commission to the certificate holder. This is the basic cost/revenue structure, but there are variations.

You will not make money doing this. If this were the case, wouldn't charter operators always own their aircraft? The charter revenues should exceed the variable expenses of operating the aircraft leaving the excess amounts to offset the fixed expenses, thus lowering the total cost to the aircraft owner.

Other benefits may include:

Reduced liability to the owner if all flights are flown under the charter operator's certificate. If your own flights are under Part 135 then the operational control for the flight rests with the charter operator, not the aircraft owner. Although if this is a big issue, don't even own an aircraft in the first place, just charter.

Access to lower costs. Bulk fuel, reduced hangar rates, possible fleet discounts on insurance, and lower personnel costs if you fly with the charter operator's crew.

Why Shouldn't You?

One is control. If you are a control freak, then you should own your aircraft and hire and manage the crew. Then you have 100% control over who flies, and when and where the aircraft is used.

Depending on the aircraft, conformity to Part 135 may increase your costs. Additional maintenance may be required, plus you will have more stringent crew rest regulations. Seating needing to meet current fire-blocking rules may be an issue as well. These costs are dependent on the aircraft type and configuration.

Increased utilization (especially by others) will increase the wear and tear on the aircraft. Plan on refurbishing the interior more often.

Decreased values. The more hours an aircraft flies the greater decrease in value at the time of sale (other factors being equal). A 10-year old airframe with 6,000 hours will have a reduced value and take longer to sell than one in the same overall condition, but with 4,000 hours.

Increased aircraft management and operational issues if operating both Part 91 and Part 135. The FAA adds restrictions on how the aircraft agreements (and contracts for crew) can be structured and can affect how easy it is for you to fly under both Part 91 and Part 135. Flying all Part 135 is easier, but you may want the flexibility that Part 91 offers. .

However, the biggest reason not to place your aircraft on someone's charter certificate is if you already use your aircraft a substantial amount, then there will be little opportunity for offsetting charter revenues.

If you have infrequent use and a predictable schedule, then you might want to look into charter. If you have a constantly changing flight schedule, and take the aircraft on the road for long trips, the charter operator won't have access to your aircraft and you won't get much revenue.

There are also issues that involve legal, tax and FAA. Rental income is generally considered as a passive income. Passive income (and losses) may impact the ability to fully tax depreciate the aircraft. State and local taxes are often different for commercial operations. You need tax guidance from an aviation-tax specialist to full understand the ramifications.

If done under the correct circumstances, placing an aircraft on an operator's charter certificate can be a win-win situation. The owner gets revenues to offset costs, and the charter provider gets an aircraft to charter without having to fully support the costs of owning and operating the aircraft with charter revenues. However, don't go into it without carefully researching all the requirements and conditions, especially legal and tax.

Have you experience with placing an aircraft on someone else's charter certificate? Click reply and let me know your experiences.

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David Wyndham



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