AOPA's comments on Regulation of Fractional Aircraft Ownership Programs and On-Demand Operations NPRM

September 18, 2003

Docket Management System
U.S. Department of Transportation
Room Plaza 401
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590-0001

REF: Docket No. FAA-2001-10047; Notice No. 01-08
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM); Regulation of Fractional Aircraft Ownership Programs and On-Demand Operations

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), representing the interests of over 375,000 pilots and aircraft owners, submits the following comments for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rulemaking contained in Docket No. FAA-2001-10047:

Security requirements for fractional ownership programs

Following the hard work of the Fractional Ownership Aviation Rulemaking Committee (FOARC) and the FAA in developing the proposed rule, the tragic events of September 11, 2001 occurred. The issue of security was not considered by the FOARC as it completed its work earlier this year. Although the FOARC and the FAA NPRM have carefully drawn distinctions between fractional ownership programs and air transportation provided under Part 135, there are similarities on the issue of security. For example, fractional pilots may not know the passengers and their baggage, and carry-on items are not screened. This presents a vulnerability that does not exist in an owner-flown aircraft, where typically the pilot knows the passengers, and the baggage and its contents do not pose a threat to safe operation of the aircraft.

AOPA recommends that any new security mandates for Part 135 on-demand air charter operators apply to operations covered under Subpart K. This concept is similar to that used in the equipment requirements of § 91.1045 that extends the mandates of Part 135 to fractional ownership program aircraft. Using this approach, security requirements of Part 135 would extend to fractional ownership program managers with the same accompanying applicability requirements as to size and type of aircraft currently applied to aircraft operated under Part 135.

Differentiation from traditional multiple ownership programs

Although AOPA was not represented on the FOARC, we were in regular consultation with the chair and individual members of the committee. This provided an opportunity to review the concepts under consideration and informally share our views on the recommendation. An essential element is the protection against inadvertently applying new regulatory requirements for traditional 14 CFR Part 91 multiple aircraft ownership arrangements, such as flying clubs, co-ownership, and other forms of non-commercial multiple aircraft ownership.

AOPA is pleased that the proposed rule would not apply the fractional ownership requirements of Part 91 Subpart K to these arrangements. The criteria contained in the NPRM clearly outlines the scope of "fractional ownership" programs to be regulated under Subpart K. We support this approach as the agency works in developing a final rule and would oppose the application of Subpart K to "other" multiple aircraft ownership arrangements.

Need for clarification of flight crew requirements

While there is a presumption that Subpart K operations include or require a professional flight crew provided by the program manager, this is not specifically stated in the regulation. The section that addresses flight crews, § 91.1001 (b) (1), does not include this mandate. Therefore, AOPA proposes that a sixth criteria be added under § 91.1001 (b) (1) to state the requirement that professional flight crew services must be provided by the program manager. In support of this sixth criteria, AOPA also proposes that § 91.1001 (b) (7) be further defined to include a provision for professional flight crew.

AOPA believes that these proposed changes to § 91.1001 will better define operations that were intended to be regulated under proposed § 91 Subpart K. The development of Subpart K did not envision or intend to regulate smaller piston powered single- and multiengine aircraft that otherwise meet the five criteria of § 91.1001, but do not use professional program pilots. Providing flight crew is an important distinction between a multiple aircraft ownership arrangement versus a fractional ownership program. The addition of our proposed sixth criteria and the redefining of § 91.1001 (b) (7) makes it clear that multiple ownership programs comprised of smaller piston-powered single- and multiengine aircraft that do not use professional program pilots, but otherwise meet the other five criteria in the fractional ownership program definition, are excluded from Subpart K.

Need for further defining flight crew experience for small fractional programs

The NPRM includes a requirement for flight crew experience, but uses an industry standard applicable for multiengine turbine-powered aircraft. The operational demands and missions of smaller aircraft are different from those of turbine-powered multiengine aircraft, yet the NPRM does not make a distinction. The final rule must specifically address and delineate flight crew experience needs for non-turbine-powered multiengine and single-engine aircraft. All of the crewmember experience requirements would only apply to those operations flown by flight crewmembers of the fractional ownership program manager under Subpart K, not owner-flown flights.

AOPA recommends that the FAA include a standard for non-turbine-powered multiengine aircraft similar to that used in Part 135. The pilot-in-command requirement under Subpart K § 91.1053 for these aircraft should be 1,200 hours. In addition AOPA recommends that these smaller aircraft operations not require a second in command. A requirement should also be established for single-engine aircraft pilot in command of 500 hours. Accepting these recommendations would also require the FAA to alter the flight crewmember flight and duty time, training requirements, and other areas of Subpart K as appropriate.

Conclusion

AOPA encourages the FAA to adopt these recommendations and emphasizes the need for distinguishing between traditional Part 91 operations from the new structure established by Part 91 Subpart K. We are concerned that Subpart K not alter the purity of Part 91 and its framework for non-commercial operations.

Sincerely,

Andrew V. Cebula
Senior Vice President, Government and Technical Affairs

November 16, 2001