As part of the measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, governments around the world have locked down their borders to prevent imported cases. After the lockdown of the T&T borders, person desirous of entering or leaving T&T required the prior approval of the Ministry of National Security.
Aircraft were chartered to transport some persons who obtained the requisite approvals to enter or leave T&T. The use of a private aircraft for reward or hire is in breach of the Chicago Convention of which T&T is a signatory and the T&T Civil Aviation Act and regulations made thereunder, in particular, the Civil Aviation (No 17) Economic] Regulations.
The operator of an aircraft cannot engage in commercial air transportation unless the operator has been issued an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by the aeronautical authorities of the country in which the air operator is based. An AOC is issued only after a very rigorous and comprehensive certification process during which the air operator must satisfactorily demonstrate the obligatory competencies to conduct commercial operations that satisfy the highest safety standards. Also, the Operations Specifications accompanying the AOC restrict flight operations to a prescribed geographical area of operation.
International air services are conducted based on Air Service Agreements (ASA) which define the conditions for commercial operations by the airlines of the State Parties to the agreement including scheduled and non-scheduled (charter) flights. International charter flight cannot be conducted between two countries unless permitted by the ASA in force or specifically authorised by the aeronautical authorities of both State Parties.
However, there is a subtle difference between a private aircraft and a private charter. A private aircraft is an aircraft used for private purposes such as aircraft owned and operated by celebrities or companies, but one that is not authorised to conduct commercial air transport operations. A private charter is a non-scheduled flight operated by an air operator on behalf of an entity for reward using aircraft certified for commercial operations in accordance with an AOC.
Therefore, an air operator cannot operate a charter flight to or from T&T for reward unless a Charter Permit is issued by the T&T Civil Aviation Authority (TTCAA) in accordance with the conditions prescribed in the Civil Aviation (No 17) Economic) Regulations and the applicable ASA.
During the period when the T&T borders are closed, the air operator must also provide evidence that the proposed flights have been approved by the Ministry of National Security.
Apart from the breaches of laws and regulations associated with the use of private aircraft to conduct commercial operations, there are serious liability issues. Such unauthorised operations can void personal and liability insurance coverage in the event of an incident or accident involving the aircraft.
Owners and operators of private aircraft should not hold out their aircraft to the public for reward or hire, unless authorised by the State aeronautical authorities to conduct commercial operations.
Retired Director General of Civil Aviation