Part 3 – Pilot Certification

When you hire Stratos Jet Charters as your private flight advisor, it is our job to identify all relevant aircraft, ensure the proper certification, maintenance and safety of each plane and to create a competitive market for your charter flight. And determining the motivation of your broker can sometimes be difficult, especially those brokers with limited aviation expertise – who place a priority on their profits, not your safety. This is why we created this educational series, or “tool kit”, to provide you with the knowledge that you need to make well-informed jet charter decisions.

Our first two topics discussed aircraft insurance verification and aircraft maintenance, and how vital each is to your safety. Our third, and equally critical topic focuses on the issue of pilot certification.

First, some basics on pilot certification and training. To fly air charter, a pilot must progress through flight training and obtain a commercial pilot’s license, an instrument rating, and a multi-engine rating. After obtaining these licenses, every operator has a minimum number of hours of Pilot in Command experience which they require for a pilot to be eligible to fly air charter. As the aircraft becomes more complex, the minimum hours required by operators and also their insurance companies increase.

Pilots should receive a minimum of 5 to 10 hours of in-flight training covering every possible emergency that can happen in an aircraft. They should also have a primary concern for safety, including the safe condition or airworthiness of the plane; knowledge of weather factors affecting the safety of the flight; flight regulations; air traffic control procedures, and air navigational aids designed to provide maximum safety in the air.

After their training, pilots take an oral and written examination, as well as a flight check in which they must demonstrate their ability to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) examiner. Pilots need to demonstrate to the FAA that their flying skills, knowledge and state of health are at all times acceptable for the particular flying jobs they perform. These flight checks are demanding, and can be failed.

And while these standard FAA requirements are stringent, Stratos Jet Charters goes even further in our own pilot requirements. Each Pilot in Command of a charter flight arranged by Stratos Jet Charters is required to have a minimum of 3,000 hours of total flight time. And each Second in Command is required to have a minimum of 1,000 total flight hours.

Operators chosen by Stratos Jets are required to only hire pilots with a 100% training record and all pilots must attend Flight Safety School at least once per year. We also require that every aircraft contracted by Stratos Jet Charters be regularly audited by an independent agency, such as Wyvern or ARGUS.

Wyvern and ARGUS have the two most recognized safety auditing standards in the industry. During an on-site safety evaluation, Part 135 charter operators are measured against the demanding ARGUS or Wyvern operating standards, both which far exceed government regulatory oversight. The reliability of audit results depends on the application of well-defined, consistent audit processes and standards. The strength of both Wyvern and ARGUS safety audit programs lie in the experience, qualifications and superior training of their audit teams, reviewing operators’ aircraft fleets, crews and maintenance. Every area of the operation is scrutinized.

And meeting these standards does make a real difference in safety. This can be observed in historical safety records. A miniscule percentage of both fatal and non-fatal FAR Part 135 accidents from January 1991 to April 2009 involved ARGUS or Wyvern-compliant and recommended aircraft or aircrew, far less than 1%. Having an ARGUS or Wyvern compliant operator, crew and maintenance program is your assurance that the pilots of your flight have a record clear of accidents, incidents and enforcement actions, are adequately experienced in the aircraft they will be flying, and have all proper certifications and type ratings.

When it comes to the safety of your charter flight, know that Stratos Jet Charters will never, ever cut corners. Which is why, once again, that you should not choose a charter broker based solely on price. The safety and security of you and your fellow passengers MUST be the primary consideration for every charter flight. This is just another aspect of our commitment to you – our invaluable clients!

Joel Thomas – President, Stratos Jet Charters