Long before you step into your private jet, before fuelling and luggage stowing and champagne pouring, the pilot in command has performed a small but critical step in ensuring you’ll have a safe flight: he or she has reviewed what they call the MEL—the minimum equipment list. What is the MEL list, and what does it mean for your safety when travelling on a private jet?

What is a minimum equipment list (MEL)?

Every aircraft contains an operations manual. Inside that operations manual is a minimum equipment list (MEL). Essentially, the MEL is a checklist of equipment installed on the aircraft that must be working at the time of the flight–and the procedures that allow an aircraft to fly with equipment that’s not working under specific conditions. Aircraft operators review the approved MEL before every private jet charter flight so they can determine if that flight can proceed. Aircraft operators use the MEL document and method as part of required Federal Aviation Regulations. Minimum equipment lists are:

  • Aircraft specific
  • Derived from the Master Minimum Equipment List ( MMEL), which is created by the private jet manufacturer and approved during the plane’s certification

The value of an MEL is that it removes pilot judgment. This is a comfort to commercial operators who want consistency in decision-making, but it can be frustrating for individuals without options.

What are some examples of an MEL item critical to safe flight operation?

  • Attitude indicator
  • Air speed indicator
  • Landing gear position indicator
  • Door seal/pressurization

What are some examples of an MEL item NOT critical to safe flight operation?

  • privacy curtain
  • DVD player
  • cabin lighting

What happens if equipment on the minimum equipment list isn’t working?


jet charter pilots in cockpit

On private jet charters, the pilot-in-command follows the minimum equipment list before determining if a flight can proceed.

The MEL outlines which equipment is permitted to be “inoperable along with procedures required for an aircraft to operate under specific conditions while maintaining airworthiness,” according to the National Air Transportation Association. If the aircraft doesn’t comply with the MEL, a pilot cannot operate that aircraft (except with “explicit permission of the appropriate regulatory authority, usually the NAA,” says Skybrary). And in those rare cases in which a pilot did get permission from the NAA to operate a private jet with inoperable equipment on the MEL, it would only be within conditions set by the aircraft’s Master Minimum Equipment List. In most cases, the MEL is outlining if a flight can carry on with certain instruments not working only until repairs can be made, and it’s understood that those repairs must be made as soon as possible. If the pilot in command discovers a piece of equipment is inoperable: 1. It must be properly and immediately reported in the aircraft maintenance record/logbook. 2. The item is then repaired, or defered for repair but deactivated by certified maintenance person. In the industry, we then call it an ‘MEL-deferred item.’ (source: National Air Transportation Association)

What policies do private jet charter brokers like Stratos have around MEL-deferred items?

Stratos is obsessed with safety, so part of our internal procedure is to tell clients about any known MEL deferrals.  We want to make sure our clients are always as educated as possible about their flights, and our goal is to maximize their margin of safety. With all information at hand, along with the client, a decision to go ahead or stay grounded can be made. For us, it’s simply the right thing to do. Are you wondering how safe are private jets anyway? Read our post on how private jet charter brokers help improve your safety. Are you looking for a private jet charter broker who is obsessed with your safety? Stratos brokers follow industry-leading internal policies at every step, and we have our own vendor approval program to ensure your private jet and pilot meet our strict standards. Call 888-593-9066 or request a quote.