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Air Operator Certificate (AOC)

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Aircraft Operator's Certificate

Definition

An Air Operator Certificate (AOC) is a certificate authorising an operator to carry out specified commercial air transport operations. (ICAO Annex 6)

Description

An air operator certificate (AOC), sometimes alternatively described as an Air Operator Permit (AOP), is the approval granted from a national aviation authority (National Aviation Authority (NAA)) to an aircraft operator to allow it to use aircraft for commercial purposes. This requires the operator to have personnel, assets and systems in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public. This document will as a minimum detail the aircraft types which may be used, for what purpose and in what geographic region.

"... prior to commencing commercial air operations, the operator shall apply for and obtain an air operator certificate (AOC) issued by the competent authority." (IR-OPS ORO.AOC.100 Application for an air operator certificate)

An operator shall not operate an aeroplane for the purpose of commercial air transportation otherwise than under, and in accordance with, the terms and conditions of an Air Operator Certificate (AOC). (EU-OPS 1.175 (a))

IR-OPS ORO.AOC (EU-OPS 1.175) details the general rules for Air Operator Certification.

An AOC specifies the:

(a) Name and location (principal place of business) of the operator;
(b) Date of issue and period of validity;
(c) Description of the type of operations authorised;
(d) Type(s) of aeroplane(s) authorised for use;
(e) Registration markings of the authorised aeroplane(s) except that operators may obtain approval for a system to inform the Authority about the registration markings for aeroplanes operated under its AOC;
(f) Authorised areas of operation;
(g) Special limitations; and
(h) Special authorisations/approvals e.g.:

Categories

AOCs can be granted for one or more of the following activities:

  • Aerial surveying
  • Aerial spotting
  • Agricultural operations
  • Aerial photography
  • Aerial advertising
  • Fire fighting
  • Air ambulance or aeromedical
  • Flight Training
  • Charter
  • Public transport

Requirements

The requirements for obtaining an AOC vary from country to country, but are generally defined as:

  • Sufficient personnel with the required experience for the type of operations requested,
  • Airworthy aircraft, suitable for the type of operations requested,
  • Acceptable systems for the training of crew and the operation of the aircraft (Operations Manual)
  • A quality system to ensure that all applicable regulations are followed,
  • The appointment of key accountable staff, who are responsible for specific safety critical functions such as training, maintenance and operations,
  • Carriers Liability Insurance (for Airlines) - Operators are to have sufficient insurance to cover the injury or death of any passenger carried.
  • Proof that the operator has sufficient finances to fund the operation
  • The operator has sufficient ground infrastructure, or arrangements for the supply of sufficient infrastructure, to support its operations into the aerodromes requested.

The certificate is held by a legal person who resides in the country or region of application (for EASA)

International variations

An AOC is referred to as a Air Carrier Operating Certificate in the USA.


Further Reading

IR-OPS, especially ORO.AOC and Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material to ORO.AOC

EU-OPS, especially EU-OPS 1.175 and ACJ OPS 1.175

ICAO's Air Operator Certification and Surveillance Handbook (draft version, May 2014)