If you love to fly, a charter business might seem like a great way to earn money off your passion. The jump to professional pilot is a challenging one. You have to meet federal requirements for commercial service and find a way to provide a competitive service despite the limits of what a single plane and pilot can offer.
The Federal Aviation Authority has to certify your business before you get airborne. For starters, the FAA wants to see your pilot's license and your resume, including your work history and flying experience. It also wants to know your business concept -- whether you're flying in-state or out-of-state, how many pilots you have, and the total number of passengers you'll carry per flight. You must have exclusive use of at least one plane for the next six months to qualify. When you're flying passengers for cash, you also have to meet tougher maintenance requirements.
The Money You'll Spend
Going from hobby flying to charter flights isn't cheap. A light jet can burn around 100 to 125 gallons of fuel an hour. A 2013 survey by the Sherpa Report found prices per gallon of fuel ranged from $4.87 to $8.81 in major cities. Private hangar space in an upscale, high-income area such as South Florida averages $593 per month. You'll also need to pay for maintenance and insurance. If you hire any staff, their benefits and pay add to your costs.
How Flexible Are You
Charters draw customers who want to fly on their own schedule, not an airline's. Your flexibility as a start-up is limited by having one plane available, with limited range and speed. To compete, offer the best service possible. You might start by targeting routes under-served by airlines or other charters in your area. To keep passengers happy, keep your aircraft looking good, inside and out. Communicate with passengers and be very clear about what costs you're billing them for. Learn about the different executive airports available as destinations. Some airports have noise restrictions and keep traffic low for that reason.
You don't have to depend entirely on your own advertising efforts. PrivateFly, for instance, is an online service that works like Travelocity and Orbitz for charters: list your schedule and rates with the website and potential customers can decide if you're a good deal. Some companies offer booking services at specific airports. Air Charter Services, for instance, books charters at Raleigh-Durham and Morrisville Airports in North Carolina. Teaming up with a booking service can keep your plane from sitting around gathering dust.