Starting a VFR 135 operation?

jrh

Well-Known Member
At my flight school we've been kicking around the idea lately of trying to get a 135 certificate for one plane and one pilot in order to diversify our operation more.

Basically the proposed operation would be flying a 2001 Cessna 172SP with me as the single pilot. Day VFR operations would be the most common, although having opspecs to allow for night VFR would be nice, too.

Because the plane is in the flight school and I'm managing the flight school, I believe everything is already in place as far as maintenance is concerned. We do 100 hour inspections according to the Cessna service manuals, track all maintenance using a computerized system, and I'm the one in charge of making sure it all happens, which is basically what a 135 Director of Maintenance does, correct?

The main goal of getting the certificate would be to pick up aerial photography missions outside of the 25 mile ring around our home airport. As a side benefit we thought we could also do some miscellaneous jobs that we're always getting calls for, like surveying tornado damage in the summer. And of course on top of those things, the only other 135 operators on the field are flying King Airs and Citations, so we thought we might pick up a passenger or cargo charter occasionally for a customer who is only needing a short hop and doesn't want to pay for a King Air.

I've already been talking to the FSDO about this and will probably fill out a preapplication statement of intent and get the ball rolling soon.


However, I still have a few questions: Has anyone gone through this process before? I talked to one other guy who did it several years ago and he said it wasn't difficult, but I'd like to hear more perspectives.

My next question is if this makes business sense. Has anyone seen VFR 135 operations combined with a flight school before? If so, was it successful? I don't expect to be flying a lot of 135 work, but if we even pick up 5 or 10 hours/month because of this, that can make a big difference during the leaner months when we're only flying 40 or 50 hours per aircraft.

Finally, from a personal perspective, will starting and managing a single pilot VFR 135 operation mean much on my resume in the future? I'd like to think it would, but I don't want to overestimate the impressiveness of it, either. I'm just curious about how it would be viewed whenever I move on from where I'm currently at.

Thanks in advance for the info!
 

OldTownPilot

Well-Known Member
Don't have a clue about the 135 stuff, but.....

As for the aerial photography stuff, you can go more than 25nm from the departure airport explicity for aerial photography under part 91. You could fly across the country and back, and as long as the person gets off the plane at the point of origin, its all kosher. I'll have to look up the regs, but we have dealt with this and the FSDO up here is completely onboard with this.

Just bring a camera when surveying tornado damage;)
 

Goonie

Never say die
I worked tor a brand new 135 operation that operated a 210 a while back. The guy who started it up pretty much said "The juice aint worth the squeeze" when it comes to 135. The paperwork and time with the FAA is a full time job! It took him about a year to get all the red tape done.
 

Seggy

Well-Known Member
From what I understand it is easier to buy an existing 135 cert that is up for sale.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
Thanks for the feedback, guys. After more discussion today, we've decided we are probably better off putting our time and energy in to other areas--for the moment.

I'm still interested to hear advice though, as doing 135 stuff is still a possibility for the future.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
Don't have a clue about the 135 stuff, but.....

As for the aerial photography stuff, you can go more than 25nm from the departure airport explicity for aerial photography under part 91. You could fly across the country and back, and as long as the person gets off the plane at the point of origin, its all kosher. I'll have to look up the regs, but we have dealt with this and the FSDO up here is completely onboard with this.

Just bring a camera when surveying tornado damage;)
I don't think that's correct. The way the regs are written, if common carriage is happening beyond 25 miles from the home airport, it needs a 135 certificate. Even within 25 miles requires a drug testing program, which few flight schools pay attention to, but the reg is still there.

But then again, it's your local FSDO who would enforce any actions against you, so I suppose if you have their blessing, you can do whatever they allow.
 

OldTownPilot

Well-Known Member
I don't think that's correct. The way the regs are written, if common carriage is happening beyond 25 miles from the home airport, it needs a 135 certificate. Even within 25 miles requires a drug testing program, which few flight schools pay attention to, but the reg is still there.

But then again, it's your local FSDO who would enforce any actions against you, so I suppose if you have their blessing, you can do whatever they allow.
I'd PM one of the guys that did the aerial mapping for the reg # (I dont think they are 135). The FSDO up here says its the same thing.

I'll be talking to the folks tonight, and ask too.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
I'd PM one of the guys that did the aerial mapping for the reg # (I dont think they are 135). The FSDO up here says its the same thing.

I'll be talking to the folks tonight, and ask too.
Aerial survey work doesn't need a 135 certificate because it's aerial survey work, but it might need it if there is common carriage involved.

Here's the deal: Let's say some guy wants to start an aerial photography company. He buys a plane, hires a pilot, and goes to work, taking pictures. This is private carriage and no 135 certificate is needed. This might be the type of arrangement you've seen in your area.

Scenario B: Let's say a guy says to himself, "Gee, there sure are a lot of photographers in this area. I bet a lot of them would like to take pictures from the air. Their sites are more than 25 miles away, too. I'll buy a plane, hire a pilot, and tell all the photographers that we can take them flying if they ever want aerial shots." This is common carriage and requires a 135 certificate.
 

CoffeeIcePapers

Well-Hung Member
Doesn't FAR 119.1 exempt aerial photography from needed an operating certificate?

e) Except for operations when common carriage is not involved conducted with airplanes having a passenger-seat configuration of 20 seats or more, excluding any required crewmember seat, or a payload capacity of 6,000 pounds or more, this part does not apply to -
(1) Student instruction;
[(2) Nonstop Commercial Air Tours conducted after September 11, 2007, in an airplane or helicopter having a standard airworthiness certificate and passenger-seat configuration of 30 seats or fewer and a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds or less that begin and end at the same airport, and are conducted within a 25-statute mile radius of that airport, in compliance with the Letter of Authorization issued under Sec. 91.147 of this chapter. For nonstop Commercial Air Tours conducted in accordance with part 136, subpart B of this chapter, National Parks Air Tour Management, the requirements of part 119 of
this chapter apply unless excepted in Sec. 136.37(g)(2). For Nonstop Commercial Air Tours conducted in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, the requirements of SFAR 50-2, part 93, subpart U, and part 119 of this chapter, as applicable, apply.<tt>]</tt><tt>
</tt> (3) Ferry or training flights;
(4) Aerial work operations, including -
(i) Crop dusting, seeding, spraying, and bird chasing;
(ii) Banner towing;
(iii) Aerial photography or survey;
(iv) Fire fighting;
(v) Helicopter operations in construction or repair work (but it does apply to transportation to and from the site of operations); and
(vi) Powerline or pipeline patrol;
 

Michael95U

Well-Known Member
See responses in bold below:

At my flight school we've been kicking around the idea lately of trying to get a 135 certificate for one plane and one pilot in order to diversify our operation more.

Basically the proposed operation would be flying a 2001 Cessna 172SP with me as the single pilot. Day VFR operations would be the most common, although having opspecs to allow for night VFR would be nice, too.

Because the plane is in the flight school and I'm managing the flight school, I believe everything is already in place as far as maintenance is concerned. We do 100 hour inspections according to the Cessna service manuals, track all maintenance using a computerized system, and I'm the one in charge of making sure it all happens, which is basically what a 135 Director of Maintenance does, correct? Single Pilot 135 doesn't require Chief Pilot, Mtx Director, Director of Ops. There really is only two positions: Pilot and Person with Operational Control.

The main goal of getting the certificate would be to pick up aerial photography missions outside of the 25 mile ring around our home airport. As a side benefit we thought we could also do some miscellaneous jobs that we're always getting calls for, like surveying tornado damage in the summer. And of course on top of those things, the only other 135 operators on the field are flying King Airs and Citations, so we thought we might pick up a passenger or cargo charter occasionally for a customer who is only needing a short hop and doesn't want to pay for a King Air. I don't know how much business you will get for short hop trips. Have you done any market research?

I've already been talking to the FSDO about this and will probably fill out a preapplication statement of intent and get the ball rolling soon.


However, I still have a few questions: Has anyone gone through this process before? Yes. Took me about 10 months for a multi engine, IFR/VFR/NIGHT/Known Icing Single Pilot Certification. I talked to one other guy who did it several years ago and he said it wasn't difficult, but I'd like to hear more perspectives.

My next question is if this makes business sense. Has anyone seen VFR 135 operations combined with a flight school before? Nope. If so, was it successful? I am not sure how it would benefit the flight school. I don't expect to be flying a lot of 135 work, but if we even pick up 5 or 10 hours/month because of this, that can make a big difference during the leaner months when we're only flying 40 or 50 hours per aircraft.

Finally, from a personal perspective, will starting and managing a single pilot VFR 135 operation mean much on my resume in the future? Yes and no. It depends on what you want to do with your career. If you stay in the 135 world it will look pretty impressive. I'd like to think it would, but I don't want to overestimate the impressiveness of it, either. I'm just curious about how it would be viewed whenever I move on from where I'm currently at.

Thanks in advance for the info!
You really don't want to go through the whole process unless there is a need. It can be a costly and frustrating process.

PM me and I can give you my cell if you want to talk about it.

Michael
 

Michael95U

Well-Known Member
From what I understand it is easier to buy an existing 135 cert that is up for sale.
Not necessarily. If you have to move the 135 certificate to a new fsdo region, it might end up taking as long as a new certification.

Michael
 

minitour

New Member
Just to clarify, you can not buy a "certificate". You can purchase the company that the FAA has issued the certificate to and then slowly replace management with your own, but you can not buy the actual certificate (authorization). It isn't possible.

My "home" FSDO recently told me 12-18 months to even look at the paperwork after you submit your PASI.

I also have heard some FSDOs on the left part of the country (that's the west ...) are at 2+ years.

I was involved in writing a full 135 (not single pilot or single PIC but I believe they call it "basic 135") and it was a royal pain in the rear end.

Good luck.

-mini
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
Doesn't FAR 119.1 exempt aerial photography from needed an operating certificate?
This is what a lot of people misunderstand. If common carriage is involved, a 135 certificate is still needed:

e) Except for operations when common carriage is not involved conducted with airplanes having a passenger-seat configuration of 20 seats or more, excluding any required crewmember seat, or a payload capacity of 6,000 pounds or more, this part does not apply to -


So if common carriage *is* involved, part 119 *does* apply.

If an operator is out there offering to fly anybody and everybody around, it doesn't matter if the flight is for photography or not, it's still common carriage / holding out and can't be done under Part 91.
 

CoffeeIcePapers

Well-Hung Member
This is what a lot of people misunderstand. If common carriage is involved, a 135 certificate is still needed:

e) Except for operations when common carriage is not involved conducted with airplanes having a passenger-seat configuration of 20 seats or more, excluding any required crewmember seat, or a payload capacity of 6,000 pounds or more, this part does not apply to -


So if common carriage *is* involved, part 119 *does* apply.

If an operator is out there offering to fly anybody and everybody around, it doesn't matter if the flight is for photography or not, it's still common carriage / holding out and can't be done under Part 91.
You just ignored the fact that there is no period where your bolding ends. It specifically says common carriage conducted with airplanes having a passenger configuration of 20 seats or more, or a payload of 6000 lbs or more.

Your idea of "common carriage" would also apply to student instruction, which is also exempted in what I posted. Are you saying we can't hold ourselves out to be a flight training outfit? I am not trying to be argumentative, just trying to get an idea of what is going on. Is this something your FSDO told you? Try calling another FSDO to get an answer.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
You just ignored the fact that there is no period where your bolding ends. It specifically says common carriage conducted with airplanes having a passenger configuration of 20 seats or more, or a payload of 6000 lbs or more.

Your idea of "common carriage" would also apply to student instruction, which is also exempted in what I posted. Are you saying we can't hold ourselves out to be a flight training outfit? I am not trying to be argumentative, just trying to get an idea of what is going on. Is this something your FSDO told you? Try calling another FSDO to get an answer.
Very good points. I think you're right. Thanks for pointing that out.

The problem I have now is that the FSDO inspector doesn't agree. I just got off the phone with him (again). He and I have talked about this three times now. He says that any kind of holding out, regardless of aircraft size, requires a 135 certificate. He says that the wording about aircraft size is in there to say that you always need a certificate for flying large aircraft in operations like those listed.

He also says the exemptions for crop dusting, banner towing, aerial photography, etc. are all intended for people who own their own business, not for people holding out their aircraft to the general public for those types of work.

He gave me the address for the top legal counsel at the FAA and said I could write them a letter for ultimate clarification, but it would probably take several months to get a reply.








I hate dealing with the feds.
 
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