The fallout from the Darby case continues as the FAA today issued a Press Releaseindicating that it has revoked an air carrier’s certificate for failing to exercise operational control and assessed a civil penalty against an air ambulance company for improperly exercising operational control. According to the FAA, American Flight Group allowed other operators to list their aircraft on its certificate for a fee and then the operators, rather than American Flight Group, exercised operational control over flights in those aircraft. This conduct violates the air carrier’s obligation to exercise and maintain operational control over flights operated under its certificate pursuant to FAR 135.77
The air ambulance company, Medway Air Ambulance, Inc., was one of the operators who paid a fee to American Flight Group for listing its aircraft on the certificate and then operating flights in those aircraft. Medway and the FAA reached an agreement under which Medway would pay a civil penalty of $1,000,000.00 for operating as an air carrier without an air carrier certificate. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey warned in the Press Release that “[t]hese cases send a strong message that the FAA strictly enforces its safety regulations and will take action in situations where an air carrier is engaged in the franchising or rental of its air carrier certificate”.
Although the FAA’s proposed Operations Specification A008 addresses these types of situations and is supposed to clarify the issues for operators, it seems to me that this situation is adequately addressed in the current regulations and by existing precedent. I am not so sure that these types of operations will necessarily disappear with the issuance of a new OpSpec and I fully expect that these types of enforcement actions will continue in earnest. Stay tuned.