Starting an aircraft charter service in Florida is an exciting and potentially lucrative endeavor, but it involves a complex web of licensing requirements. In this comprehensive guide, we'll walk you through the process of establishing a chartering service in the Sunshine State, including the crucial licensing requirements and a detailed breakdown of what your operations manual should contain and address.
Step 1: Research and Planning
Conduct thorough market research to identify your target customers and competitors. Understand the demand for charter services in Florida, considering tourists, business travelers, and locals.
Create a detailed business plan that includes your company's mission, market analysis, financial projections, and a comprehensive marketing strategy. A solid plan will be invaluable for obtaining funding and guiding your business.
Step 2: Legal and Regulatory Compliance
Choose a suitable legal structure for your charter service, such as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. This decision affects taxation, liability, and ownership arrangements.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Licensing
Air Carrier Certificate (Part 119)
- Explanation: The Air Carrier Certificate is essential and authorizes your business to operate as a commercial air carrier.
- Develop an operations manual detailing company policies, safety protocols, and organizational structure.
- Prove financial capability and operational capacity to the FAA.
Operating Certificate (Part 135)
- Explanation: The Operating Certificate, under Part 135 regulations, specifies the rules for on-demand charter operations, including safety, maintenance, and operations.
- Adhere to stringent safety standards, encompassing aircraft maintenance, crew training, and flight operations.
- Undergo a thorough FAA inspection covering aircraft, crew qualifications, maintenance records, and operational procedures.
State and Local Licensing
- Explanation: Depending on your charter service's location, you may need county or municipal business licenses.
- Process: Research and apply for the relevant licenses, which often involve fees and business registration.
Sales Tax Compliance
- Explanation: Florida imposes sales tax on aircraft sales and leases, requiring compliance.
- Process: Register for and collect sales tax from customers according to the state's regulations based on your specific circumstances.
Insurance and Liability
- Explanation: Adequate insurance coverage is crucial in aviation.
- Types of Insurance:
- Aircraft Liability Insurance: Covers aircraft-related bodily injury and property damage.
- Passenger Liability Insurance: Protects passengers in case of in-flight incidents.
- Hangar and Ground Liability Insurance: Covers ground-related accidents.
- Workers' Compensation: Necessary if you have employees to cover workplace injuries.
Sales Tax Compliance in Florida
Florida imposes sales or use tax on various transactions, including aircraft sales and leases. Complying with Florida's sales and use tax regulations is crucial to avoid legal issues. Here's what you need to consider:
- When you purchase an aircraft for your charter service, you may be subject to Florida's sales or use tax. The rate varies by county with a minimum state rate of 6%. You can potentially claim an exemption if the aircraft will be used predominantly for certain qualifying purposes.
- If you dry lease aircraft to customers, Florida generally imposes a sales or use tax on the lease payments. However, exemptions or apportionment may apply if the lease meets specific criteria.
Sales Tax Collection:
- As a business, you may be required to register as a sales tax dealer with the Florida Department of Revenue and collect sales tax from your customers if your transactions are taxable.
Helpful Tip, check out our Florida Sales Tax Division!
Step 3: Safety and Compliance
Your operations manual is a critical document that outlines the policies, procedures, and protocols for running your aircraft charter service safely and efficiently. It should contain and address the following:
- Introduction and Company Overview
- Company mission and values.
- Organizational structure and key personnel.
- Safety Procedures
- Emergency response plans for various scenarios.
- Aircraft inspection and maintenance procedures.
- Crew training and qualification requirements.
- Operational Procedures
- Flight scheduling and dispatch procedures.
- Pre-flight checklists.
- In-flight procedures and protocols.
- Customer Service
- Passenger handling and care.
- Complaint resolution procedures.
- Crew Responsibilities
- Pilot responsibilities and duties.
- Cabin crew responsibilities and passenger safety.
- Aircraft Information
- Detailed information on the aircraft you operate, including specifications, equipment, and maintenance records.
- Regulatory Compliance
- Detailed explanations of how your company adheres to FAA regulations and other relevant laws.
- Procedures for maintaining records, including flight logs, maintenance records, and crew qualifications.
- Change Management
- Procedures for updating and revising the operations manual as needed.
Starting an aircraft charter service in Florida is a rewarding venture, but navigating the licensing requirements is intricate. Understanding and obtaining the necessary FAA certifications, complying with state and local regulations, ensuring comprehensive insurance, and creating a detailed operations manual that addresses all aspects of your business are paramount to establishing a reputable and successful charter service in the Sunshine State.
About the Author:
Chase Carpenter is a partner in the Business Division of Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.. His practice revolves around business transactions and business litigation. Mr. Carpenter handles a wide range of cases including contract drafting, partnership disputes, commercial leases, and construction litigation. These cases encompass diverse industries, including healthcare, technology, real estate investment, and government contracting.
About the Firm:
The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., also known as MSD Business, is a local business law firm in Tampa, FL, serving clients throughout Fort Lauderdale and statewide. Our firm has a long history of helping clients navigate all types of complex legal matters, including local and state tax issues. In our business law practice, we assist clients with everything from mergers and acquisitions to contract disputes, business litigation, general counsel, and more.