Private aviation in the United States enjoys relatively relaxed regulatory guidelines compared to its commercial and charter counterparts. While these regulations do not demean the safety and security of general aviation, several substitutional rules put in place for commercial and charter operations do not apply to the private industry. Simple Flying explores some key differences in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for using aircraft for private and commercial purposes.
Private (non-commercial) operations
The FAA provides regulations for private jet operations in Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) Part 91. According to these guidelines, the aircraft must only be used for non-commercial purposes. In other words, no compensation or reimbursement must be received for flight operations. There are some exceptions to that rule when the flight operator is paying an equal portion of the cost as other occupants.
These guidelines also mandate the aircraft and the operator comply with specific conditions for airport operations, weather and navigation services, and crew training. Moreover, limited liability and insurance guidelines are also provided to protect pilots and occupants of the aircraft. While the regulations outline safe and consistent operations of private and business jets, they offer more flexibility and freedom to how they operate. Unlike commercial pilots, private aircraft pilots do not have a specific limit on the allowed time on duty.
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That said, the regulations outline a pilot’s safe operation of aircraft. Similarly, private pilots’ medical requirements are significantly simpler than those of commercial pilots. Several regulatory trainings that commercial pilots must perform periodically do not apply to private pilots. Unlike commercial flights, private jet operators can take off in very low visibility. Similarly, a diversion caused by a mechanical failure does not have to be reported to the FAA. In general, the regulatory guidelines provide much more freedom to private operators.
The FAA provides regulations for non-scheduled commercial operations in FAR Part 135. According to this set of guidelines, the aircraft can be used for air taxi, charter, and pay-per-use rental services. Except for some differences (due to the size and scheduled operations), private non-scheduled services are similar to commercial airliners.
Flights operated under Part 135 can receive compensation for flights. However, the regulations and guidelines around commercial operations are much stricter. The operational control of the aircraft, including flight tracking and navigational systems, is paramount in commercial operations.
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Part 135 operations require higher standards of training and medical clearances for pilots. Pilots operating Part 135 flights may also be subject to tests for alcohol and other substances. The requirements for on-duty time are outlined based on the type and location of the operation. In addition to all regulatory training, refresher training must also be taken every so often (usually 1-2 years) for pilots and crew of commercial flights.
Passengers on commercially operated flights are also subject to stricter identification and security requirements. Commercial jets must follow more rigorous inspection and maintenance guidelines than private operations.
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