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A Consumer Guide
Federal Aviation Administration

Rose Air Seattle Sky Taxi

Photo by Hal Roth

   This guide is designed to help you charter an airplane or helicopter if you don't know where to start.

   Air charters or air taxis (the generic term used for all kinds of chartered aircraft) offer many advantages over larger airlines' regularly scheduled flights. Air taxis can offer savings of time and expense by landing at an airport close to your destination and by following your time schedule. Take the following examples:

  • You need the speed and convenience of air travel but there is no scheduled airline service to your destination -- general aviation airports with good facilities can accommodate air taxi flights.

  • Your boss has a hectic schedule and has trouble making all his or her appointments because there aren't enough flights near the desired destination(s) -- air taxis follow your itinerary.

  • You need to get from place to place quickly but the destinations are separated by geographic features such as water -- chartering an aircraft may save you time, money and aggravation.

  • You have a medical emergency -- chartering aircraft is a quick and easy way to get there fast.

   This document provides guidance on selecting a safe, suitable Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificated air taxi operator.

   Selecting an air taxi operator is not difficult, nor does it require a vast knowledge of the air taxi industry or Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR's).

   Included in this guide are some general questions you should ask an air taxi operator prior to arranging for a flight. A brief description of some of the FAA regulations operators must meet are also discussed.

   There are approximately 3,000 air taxi operators in the United States who have met the comprehensive criteria required to qualify for an Air Carrier Operating Certificate. Of those operators, approximately 2,500 offer service in airplanes and 500 provide service in helicopters.

   Any air taxi operator that offers services to the public must by law be certified by the FAA and meet stringent operational, maintenance and safety rules. In addition, the pilots must be specially qualified.

   The regulations for air taxis provide for a high level of safety and control. They address flight operations, maintenance requirements, and crew member training and testing. The FARís also address crew rest and physical examinations, and mandate a stringent anti-drug program for operators. The FAA closely monitors air taxi operators to make sure that they conform to the established standards of performance. Your safety depends on flying with a legally certificated air taxi operator.

   Asking a few basic questions of the air taxi operator is all that is needed to be certain that you are dealing with an FAA Certificated Air Carrier (this is the official name for an air taxi operator) and that the operator is authorized to provide the type and kind of service you require. The following questions may be helpful before arranging a flight:

  1. Do you hold a current FAA Air Carrier Operating Certificate?

  2. What is the name of the company as it appears on the certificate?

  3. What is the certificate number?

  4. What is the name and telephone number of the FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and who is the FAA Principal Operations Inspector overseeing your operation?

  5. (For international trips) Is your company FAA authorized to conduct international operations to your destination?

   You have the right to contact the FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). The telephone number is in your local directory under "U.S. Government, Transportation, Department of." If the operator is unwilling or reluctant to provide the answers to the above questions, or does not want you to contact the FAA for verification of his or her Air Carrier Operating Certificate, you would be wise to consider another operator to fill your travel requirements.

   When making inquiries with air taxi companies the operator will probably want to know the following:

  • number of passengers

  • amount of baggage or freight

  • time constraints, and

  • your itinerary. Also, tell the operator the passengersí ultimate destination so the most convenient airport can be chosen.

   Like everything, there are trade-offs between aircraft speed, seating capacity, amenities and weather capabilities.

   The air taxi operator is your best source for choosing an aircraft. Unless you have a specific preference, let the operator recommend the aircraft that is best suited to your needs.


   Weather can affect your flight plans. The FAA has regulations concerning weather, types of aircraft and pilot capabilities Some aircraft are equipped with various optional equipment that allows operation in complex weather such as icing conditions or heavy rain showers.

   The operator you select can explain the limitations of the aircraft and the company's authorizations The pilot will not fly an aircraft if the weather conditions do not meet the standards of his/her certification. Do not second-guess a pilot's decision-making authority when it comes to weather and flight safety.


   Many air taxis use aircraft that are unpressurized. Cabin pressurization refers to an aircraft's ability to maintain a comfortable environment in the cabin as altitude increases and the outside air becomes colder and thinner. There are differences in flying in a pressurized versus unpressurized aircraft. Pressurized aircraft can fly at higher altitudes than unpressurized aircraft. Flying at a lower altitude can be a wonderful experience. On a clear day you can enjoy the scenery. You can see the towns, cities, roads, mountains, lakes and rivers. Unpressurized aircraft usually climb and descend more slowly than pressurized aircraft and fly around rather than over the weather. If the weather is to be a factor, the choice of aircraft can affect your flight plans. The operator you select can explain the options.


   Remember, children are safest in an approved child safety seat. Children under 2 years old can be held by another passenger, but, in a sudden stop they may not be safely  restrained. If a safety seat is used, install the seat in a rear airplane seat (consistent with the pilot's instructions) but not near an entry door or emergency exit. Seats manufactured to U.S. standards after February 26, 1985, bear two labels reading:

 "This child restraint system conforms to all applicable safety standards"



in red lettering. Follow the seat manufacturer's instructions and observe weight limitations.

   Chartering an air taxi is a convenient and safe way to travel. We hope this guide has helped you become a better-informed consumer of an important segment of the transportation industry.

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