One of the USA's biggest and longest-established business jet charter operators and brokerages AMI Jet Charter has become the victim of a complex Federal Aviation Administration campaign to force greater transparency on the chartering business.

The Part 135 business charter and air taxi industry in the USA is mystified, however, about both the choice of operator and the FAA's timing, because no-one, including the FAA, can explain why the action - revocation of this organisation's operator's certificate - has taken place now.

AMI is 49% owned by TAG Aviation USA, a subsidiary of Geneva, Switzerland-based TAG Holdings, and the foreign ownership aspect of this issue is regarded as relevant. One of the reasons for licence revocation is the FAA's allegation that TAG, not AMI, was exercising operational control of flights, which would mean it was, says the FAA, "under active control of foreign interests".

But Robert Wells, chief executive of TAG Aviation, has told Flight International: "We were surprised by the FAA's haste to issue a revocation of AMI Jet Charter's certificate. There was no basis for it from a safety perspective, and the relationship between AMI and TAG Aviation USA was approved by the FAA itself almost a decade ago. At this point we are considering options that will be in the best interest of clients and employees."

Industry commentators are speculating that the FAA action is based upon a reinterpretation of regulations applying to Part 135 operator charters. In a National Transportation Safety Board board member statement appended to the agency's report on the 28 November 2004 crash of an Air Castle Challenger 601 at Montrose, Colorado, in which three died, it was stated that US Part 135 operators had been left without proper FAA safety oversight for nine years.

The NTSB has explained: "In the mid-1990s, the FAA dissolved its Part 135 branch in the flight standards department. FAA reinstated the branch last year [2005], but that segment of the industry went without significant FAA headquarters' oversight for nine years, coincidentally during a time of steady growth in the industry."

Source: Flight International