Malaya’s unlicenced air taxis…



SUBANG aviation cluster in Selangor is fast becoming a hub for illegal charter flights that are operating below the authorities’ radar, posing serious safety risks to passengers, while eating into the business of licensed operators.

According to an industry survey by the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA), Malaysia has the second-highest number of private jet flights operating without a valid air operator certificate (AOC) in Asia after China.

“Firstly, insurance does not cover for any accident that may happen with the flights. These illegal operations threaten the country’s aviation safety reputation.

“Secondly, we have operators who spend millions applying for AOC or foreign AOC (FAOC) and adhere to the regulations, but the illegal jet charter operators do not and get to do the businesses,” an AsBAA Malaysia chapter head Aida Ismail told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

The illegal movements — also known as “grey charters” — are unlicensed jet charter operations that are usually provided by aircraft owners who are not governed by the same strict regulations as an AOC holder.

In Malaysia, it is the 9M-AOC, dubbed the “Niner Mike”. There are also licensed operators who utilise their aircraft beyond the remit of their licences.

Currently, legally hired aircraft must be operating with an AOC, following the regulations established by the US Federal Aviation Administration under FAR Part 135 and flown by commercial pilots.

Part 135-certified aircraft is subject to rigorous safety standards for maintenance, flight operations, ground operations, crew experience and training, among others.

Simply put, grey charters are illegitimate private jet operations akin to unlicensed air taxis.

Aida said aircraft owners or operators may not be aware of the regulations and take on passengers for hire in exchange for payment, not realising they are offering illegal charter services.

Similarly, passengers and sometimes pilots of the aircraft are oblivious that the flight is illegal.

An industry source said during the Sabah state election period in September, about eight out of 10 private jet flights were likely illegal charters.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the source said the ratio was fairly 50-50. “Nearly everyone in Subang is doing it. Whoever owns an aircraft in Subang largely does it. Most of the assets are managed by companies. “They want to supplement their income, for example, by paying for the hangar and reducing operating cost in general,” the source, who requested anonymity, told TMR. The source said people who need a flight usually refer to either brokers, companies, or someone they know having aircraft in Subang — the country’s business aviation (BizAv) hub — to hire the illegal charter flights, either knowingly or not.

The source said the grey charters in Subang are fuelled by the high demand that has outnumbered supply.

Illegal charter flights converge in Subang


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