Private Jet Plane

Aircraft Onboarding – A Step by Step Guide

There is much uncertainty around the process of onboarding an aircraft to a company’s Aircraft Operating Certificate (AOC) as every situation is different, and throws up its own considerations. From aircraft size and configuration, to where the aircraft is registered before the purchase, every aircraft’s journey is unique.

Many UK operators are currently looking for options to avoid Brexit related issues, but on a global scale the world of aviation has shifted in many ways over the past few years. In short, having an experienced operator negotiate the transition period with you pays dividends. 

As an operator that believes in transparency, you can find a great deal of advice on our website. The best place to start is to understand what an AOC does, and how they can help you. If you are at the ‘information pursuit’ stage of your search then feel free to visit our page that covers some of the basic information for guidance here. 

You can also find out more about the benefits of a Maltese registration. 

Step 1 – Documentation for application 

Prior to the process commencing, a potential buyer of an aircraft will need to have requested and received the necessary paperwork from the seller. This information will be aircraft specific, but as a guide you can expect to require aircraft records, aircraft manuals, maintenance history, and details for both parties, such as contracts and passports etc. 

Timelines for onboarding will vary, however once the process is in motion (with all the documentation having been received and accepted) it can take between 30 – 90 days from that point. 

Some of the information or documentation you will require:

  • Previous and Maltese Registration for the aircraft 
  • Serial Number of the aircraft 
  • Year of manufacture 
  • Seat Configuration 
  • Structural Limitations  – Maximum Weights for taxi, take-off, landing, and zero fuel
  • All agreements, contracts, personal details of notarized representatives, including who has the power of attorney etc. 

For the aircraft to be registered on the Maltese registry it must be de-registered first from its current registry and a certificate of de-registration must be provided. Registration in Malta will also require a set of documents and certificates. 

Common obstacles in Step 1 

Being based in the European Union, Malta as an aviation hub is EASA compliant for the standards and safety regulations of every aspect of hosting an aircraft on an AOC. These standards are the highest in the world, which can cause complications when changing the location of the aircraft registration. 

Airworthiness Review Certificate (ARC)

The first hurdle when transitioning onto any European registration from a NON-EASA state of registry would be acquiring the Airworthiness Review Certificate (ARC). This can be dependant also on the lifespan of the aircraft, as records need to be checked all the way ‘back to birth’ (meaning when originally sold from the manufacturer). Any Non-EASA standard items would need to addressed before moving forward, however this can be agreed as part of the sale conditions with the current owner during the Pre Purchase Inspection (PPI).

Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) 

Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) is the industry term for major modifications that require certification to ensure they are meeting the regulating bodies standards.  Many private owners will have personalised their aircraft with modifications that may not be EASA compliant. This can be especially true when the aircraft is coming from the West. If the aircraft needs to be transitioned from an N or P4 registration (America and Aruba respectively) the regulations differ so much that it could become costly. 

All of the STCs will need to be EASA compliant by the time the aircraft is added to an EASA registered management company. In some cases, this has meant removing the modifications completely. An experienced management company would be able to advise prior to purchase, and potentially have the changes made by the current owner as a condition of the sale.  

A key concern for purchasing an aircraft with modifications is the age of the modifications themselves. If the modification is old, it can be more difficult to certify as the suppliers may no longer be operating or the item may no longer be sold, making it more difficult to gather the required information. 

Depending on the experience of the consultancy firm you hire and the standard to which you specify at PPI, the process above will normally take anywhere from a week to a month.  Many management companies (ourselves included) can handle this part of the process as well. 

Step 2 – Formal Application 

Once you have gathered all the required documentation with the help of your chosen management company, they can then inform the aviation authorities of your intention to transition the aircraft to a Maltese licence with (for example) Air CM Global. This will be handled predominantly by the AOC, as they will be ultimately responsible for the safety and standards being submitted for the aircraft. 

Step 3 – Flight Operations and Continued Airworthiness Management Organisation (CAMO) Approval 

In this stage of the application, the Flight operations and CAMO processes run side by side. These require two separate and independent approvals from different departments within Transport Malta. 

Flight Operations Approval Process 

The documentation required for flight operations should have been collected at the preliminary stage before sending off the formal application. This documentation is then used by the flight operations team at your management company to create the required manuals for operational procedures, training, safety and compliance, and any other type-specific considerations. This could be the subscriptions the aircraft requires or working with ground operations to ensure the reports from CAMO are fed into the operational systems, picking up issues that are then implemented into the manuals. 

Crew Training

The Flight Operations & Training departments of your management company will deal with hiring crew members for the aircraft on your behalf. As per regulations, the operator is the only entity which keeps the oversight over the crew and the aircraft operation.  This process has many stages: 

  • Recruitment 
  • Negotiation of contracts
  • Training schedules at the flight simulator 
  • Full onboarding process: Company Conversion Course, Computer Based training (CBT) and HR related paperwork through to the appropriate fuel cards are provided for the new crew
  • Line training & Supervision by a line training captain (LTC) 
  • Line check after which a pilot is released from supervision 

CAMO Approval Process

The CAMO department of your management company investigate and apply for the Certificate of Airworthiness and Airworthiness Review Certificate (ARC) review, which is submitted by CAMO to TM CAD directly. If the aircraft is already on an EASA regulated registration (and meets these requirements), the process can be more straight forward than the Asian, African, Arabic or American transitions.  

We highly recommend that you negotiate with your management company to designate a project manager for you. This will ensure that the ownership of tasks is enforced. The Project Manager ensures your management company have access to all records (required at application) and create reports on items such as weight and balance, which are fed back to the operational departments. Any recommendations for changes to STCs will be explored to safeguard the EASA regulations are being met. 

Once these standards have been approved by CAMO, the Certificate of registration application is submitted to TM CAD on your behalf. 

Whilst the certification of registration is being processed, the project manager will focus their attention on the Aircraft Maintenance Programme (AMP) and the final CAMO application. 

The AMP must be created by the CAMO team you will be using. Firstly, a timeline will be created for the maintenance, which aligns the maintenance requirements between EASA and manufacturer, with the history of the aircraft. This creates a bespoke programme for the foreseeable future of the aircraft. 

The Head of CAMO will need to demonstrate to TM CAD how your aircraft will be supported. An appropriate Part 145 company application is submitted alongside the AMP, and all the records (from ‘back to birth’) are submitted for auditing purposes.  

Stage 4 – TM CAD Physical Inspection

Once the documentation has been accepted by TM CAD, they perform a physical inspection of the aircraft. The assigned auditor will be accompanied by Head of Camo and your project manager to ensure all the conditions have been met and the aircraft is as stated throughout the documentation and manuals. 

Stage 5 – Acceptance Flight 

After a physical inspection, an ‘Acceptance Flight’ is performed. This is performed using a specific checklist to check the airworthiness. The flight is performed by the crew and overseen by TM CAD. 

Stage 6 – Welcome Onboard 

After all of the required paperwork has been created and approved, and the aircraft checks have been completed you will receive your confirmation of registration. Depending on the AOC, you may then be assigned an account manager to keep you up to date with all aspects of having an aircraft, and all of the additional approvals you may wish to consider in the future for different types of flying. More information about having a management company is available here. 

If you would like to speak to our team about joining our AOC, we would be more than happy to assist you.

Get in touch at: enquiries@aircm.aero