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AIR CHARTER : Glossary


The air charter community has developed its own industry-specific business and technical terminology that may be unfamiliar to newcomers. The Air Charter Guide has prepared this brief list of terms that a user of air charter is likely to encounter in conversation with charter professionals on our website.

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airway distance: The actual (as opposed to straight line) distance flown by the aircraft between two points, after deviations required by air traffic control and navigation along established routes. The difference between this and straight line distance will vary throughout the country. Average figures would be between 5–9%.

amphibious floats: FLOATS or "pontoons" equipped with retractable wheels that permit the aircraft to operate from paved airports.


block rates: A lower "contract rate" for scheduling significant amounts of charter time in advance on a pre-arranged agreement.

block speed: The average speed over a specific distance "block-to block", or door-to-door with respect to the airport gate.

broker margin: The difference between the flight charges assessed by the charter operator and the flight charges assessed by the charter broker.


charter broker: A company or individual that buys charter at wholesale and resells it at retail. The broker is responsible for payment to the charter provider, for assessing end-user taxes and fees, and for ensuring their customer's safety and satisfaction. A charter operator may act as a broker to provide supplemental lift to their customer.

charter operator: A company or individual that holds aircraft charter certificates and provides charter services to retail and wholesale customers.

commuter operator: A regional, scheduled airline. In this book limited to that operator with adequate fleet capacity as to be available of charter. Not all commuter airlines charter, because of the limitations of aircraft and crew availability.

corporate operator: A company flight department that has earned a part 135 certificate to carry passengers for compensation.

cruise speed: The aircraft speeds shown in the Aircraft Listings in this directory. Cruise speed is the normal speed attained at altitude once the aircraft is no longer climbing and is en route.


deadhead: Originally a noun, now a verb meaning to fly the return leg of a trip without cargo or passengers. Originally coined during the infancy of the major airlines, the term was pejoratively applied to company employees or spouses, who were strapped into otherwise empty seats to give the appearance of high business volume.

duty time: That portion of the day when a crew member is on duty in any capacity (not just in the air). This can be a constraint on long day-trips, as there are limits on the amount of time allowed on duty. Many charter operators have stricter rules, so it pays to inquire before planning a trip too tight to the limit.


empty leg: Also known as "one-way availability". Since charter trips typically charge for the round trip travel of the aircraft, empty legs can often represent relative bargains. These are usually posted as available for travel between two airports during a certain time period.


FBO: Fixed-base operator, which represents a large majority of the air charter industry. By definition at a permanent location, this is a vendor of services, maintenance, fuel, flight instruction, and aircraft sales, in addition to charter.

fleet manager: A commercial aviation entity developed to subcontract the maintenance and operation of corporate aircraft, which are often chartered out to the general public.

flight time: That portion of the trip actually spent in the air. For billing purposes this definition is generally strict and only applies from moment of lift-off to moment of touch-down.

floats: Pontoons, or flotation devices, that enable an airplane (or helicopter) to land on water.


general aviation: That portion of aviation other than military or commercial scheduled operations. Commercial unscheduled operations, corporate flight operations, and private aviation are the most conspicuous members of this group. Most major metropolitan airports tend to have a separate "general aviation" terminal, where a chartered flight is likely to depart or arrive.

great circle distance: The shortest distance between two points on a globe.


IFR: Instrument Flight Rules (flight in clouds).

ILS: Instrument Landing System. Low-level approach equipment at certain airports.

independent operator: A charter operator that does not meet the definition of FBO or commuter, but may not be involved in contract management of aircraft. The larger independent operators, however, are very close to the fleet manager in business approach.


layover: A night spent in the middle of the trip in a city other than home base for the aircraft and crew.

leg: Describes one direction of travel between two points. Commonly used in referring to a planned itinerary, it may not indicate all landings such as fuel stops.

lift: Any aircraft engaged for transport.


medevac: Medical evacuation (usually emergency) seen in this book as a service of many helicopter companies.


net/net: The quote format that applies wholesale rates and does not include taxes or other end-user assed fees. Also known as a wholesale quote.


positioning: Ferrying aircraft for departure from other than originating airport. (Also for return.)

positioning time: Time estimated for an aircraft to travel to the trip departure position.

propjet: A propeller driven airplane, in which the engine is a jet turbine rather than piston driven.


ramp: The apron or open "tarmac" in form of an FBO or terminal facility. This space is busy, used for deplanement, parking of aircraft, etc. Some facilities will permit automobiles to drive to the aircraft on the ramp, a feature of real benefit to the traveler with heavy or bulky luggage.

repositioning time: Time estimated for an aircraft to return to its based position after completion of a passenger segment.

retail customer: Also known as the "end user". This customer purchases charter for their own use .

retail quote: Quote provided to retail customer including taxes and end-user assessed fees.


segment: Describes the unit of flight between take-off and landing. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term leg.

stage length: Distance of itinerary non-stop leg.


taxi time: That portion of the trip spent rolling between the gate, terminal, or RAMP and runway.


VFR: Visual Flight Rules (flight out of clouds).


waiting time: That time that the chartered aircraft and crew must wait on the ground during any portion of the trip.

wholesale buyer: charter broker or charter operator that you allow to represent your aircraft to their customers.

wholesale quote: Quote provided to a wholesale buyer for the purpose of resale. Applies wholesale rates and does not include taxes or end-user assessed fees. Also known as a net/net quote.

wholesale rates: Discounted hourly rates offered to wholesale buyers for purpose of resale. Industry average is a 5% discount but the rate varies according to agreements between individual charter operators and charter brokers.