Commercial aviation or airlines is an aviation segment easily identified, even by those who do not work in the area. A Gol Boeing 737 landing, for example, is quickly recognized as an airline operation; just as the take-off of an Air Force Gripen fighter is unequivocally regarded as a military aviation operation. However, when a single-engine Cessna Grand Caravan taxis onto the track, few would be able to tell which segment that operation is from. It would be easy to identify that plane as military, if the aircraft’s registration is from the Brazilian Air Force. But if the registration was for Brazilian civil aviation – starting with the letters PP, PT, PR, PS or PU –, this would be a little more complicated.
According to Brazilian civil aviation regulations, the Caravan in the above example could be performing a general aviation, air taxi or even airline operations, depending on a few factors. This generates some confusion in the way in which the aviation activities of smaller aircraft in Brazil are classified, which this article intends to clarify.
There is an official classification for civil aviation activities, formalized by ICAO, but this does not accurately reflect the way in which air operations in Brazil are classified in practice. We will explore the two ways of classifying civil aviation activities: ICAO and Brazilian practice, detailing the classification of operations as “business aviation”, an umbrella term that better categorizes aviation activities as they occur in Brazil.
For formal references on this subject, please check the bibliography presented at the end of this article. Some information and terms mentioned may be out of date due to the recent change of the Brazilian Aviation Code (Law 7.565/1986) promoted by MP 1.089/2021 and will be corrected in a separate article referenced in the post comments after becoming permanent. This article is under the exclusive responsibility of its author and does not reflect the points of view of the entities in which he participates.
One of the main differences between the ICAO classification and Brazilian practice is that both air taxi and private aviation are usually understood as general aviation; while other segments such as instructional flying, sightseeing and agriculture are referred to as unique segments of general aviation. In Brazil there is no “Commercial Business Aviation” linked to commercial air transport services: this activity is carried out by the air taxi. The “Non-Commercial Business Aviation” (air activity without operator remuneration) is known as the “private aviation” in Brazil.
In US, NBAA – National Business Aviation Association defines business aviation as “the use of ‘general aviation’ aircraft for business purposes” – which excludes, in addition to the air taxi, the aerial work and others. Therefore, the definition used here for “business aviation” will not be exactly the same as in the NBAA, since this article is focused on the practice verified in Brazil.
Another way of understanding Brazilian business aviation (and perhaps the easiest way) is by exclusion, that is: defining what it IS NOT. The aviation segments that DO NOT belong to business aviation in this point of view are:
- Military aviation: aircraft operated by the Brazilian Air Force, Army and Navy.
- Large domestic and international airline: commercial air transport companies certified by RBAC 119 (only Brazilian companies) to operate in accordance with RBAC 121 (Brazilian company) or 129 (foreigner company) in passenger and cargo transport operations, For Brazilian companies these operations should be performed by planes with more than 19 seats for passengers, or with a payload equal to or greater than 3,400 kg (+/- 7,500 lb). These operations can be:
- Regular (or scheduled): flights previously informed to ANAC and operated on fixed days of the week and at specific times by airlines.
- Non-regular (or unscheduled): single flights, not repetitively performed.
- Sportive Aviation: operations performed by Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), experimental, ultralight aircraft, trikes, balloons, etc. (ruled by RBAC 103). Operation must also follow regulations applicable to general aviation – RBAC 91.
- Drones: activity regulated by RBAC 94E.
Now, we will specify the segments and sub-segments of “Brazilian business aviation”, in accordance with local practices:
- Private aviation: non-commercial operation regulated by RBAC 91 (uniquely). Operators can be individuals or companies Subsegments:
- Conventional private aviation: operation in which the aircraft has one or more operators and follows the conventional regulation of RBAC 91 (without the application of subpart K).
- Fractional private aviation: in this case, the operator is a program administrator under Subpart K of RBAC 91.
- Air taxi: the operator must be authorized to perform commercial operations, chartering the flight and, in certain cases, also operates as an airline. Practical sub-segments:
- Conventional air taxi (exclusively on demand): the charterer hires the air taxi company to charter the entire capacity of the aircraft to perform the remunerated transport of passengers or cargo.
- Aeromedical transport (exclusively on demand): transport of patients by an air ambulance regulated by Portaria/MS 2048. There are two distinct activities in this subsegment: pre-hospital operations (MEDEVAC), performed only by helicopters; and inter-hospital transport, performed by fixed or rotary wing aircraft. Operations performed by police or military firefighters’ aircraft and crew should follow RBAC 90; and in other cases, the rules are RBAC 135 plus IAC 3134 (in the process of transition to a new ANAC regulation, to be published).
- Offshore or Oil & Gas operation (air transport between the continent and the oil platforms, performed by helicopters): besides this operation is formally identical to the conventional air taxi, there are some differences that make it, in practice, a kind of airline performed by helicopters, similar to a regular/scheduled operation. In addition, the charterer company, usually an oil company, needs to comply with the PEOTRAM rules (Petrobras’ specific program for offshore operation).
- Individual seats selling (scheduled): authorized for conventional air taxi companies (only on demand certified) through ANAC’s Resolution 576/2020, which allows the company to sells tickets up to a limit of 15 weekly frequencies. Although, in practice, this operation is scheduled, it is not a typical regular operation, as the schedules are unique: they do not necessarily happen repeatedly as required for airline operations.
- Sub-regional airlines (scheduled): regular/scheduled operations (repetitive flights) performed by air taxi companies, certified by RBAC 135. In this case, there is no limitation of 15 flights per week, but some additional requirements of RBAC 135 must be met.
- Aerial Work: all remunerated air activities, except passenger and cargo transport. Instructional flight, agricultural aviation, and sightseeing (formally Aerial Work) are separately classified in Brazilian practice. Other Aerial Work activities (regulated only by RBAC 91) must be authorized by ANAC in accordance with IS 91-007. Main sub-segments:
- Press & Media: aircraft used by media companies (radio and TV) to transmit aerial images and/or information about traffic or relevant events.
- Advertising: banner planes advertising, usually in the shore.
- Aero photogrammetry, aerial topography and prospecting for minerals and other elements: technical services as terrain mapping, engineering, mining, etc.
- Artificial rainfall – self-explanatory.
- Fire Fighting – self-explanatory.
- Instructional flight: basic practical training for private and commercial pilots’ licenses or IFR and multi-engine habilitations (RBAC 141); or advanced practical instruction for type rating (RBAC 91 plus RBAC 142).
- Agricultural aviation: planes and helicopters operations for agricultural spraying, seedlings, and any other similar activity (RBAC 91 plus RBAC 137).
- Sightseeing: touristic flights that must have the same take-off and landing site, performed by fixed and rotary wing aircraft (RBAC 136).
- Police and military firefighters: typical activities of police and firefighter operations, or aeromedical performed by them (RBAC 90).
- Government: operation similar to conventional private aviation (RBAC 91) but operated by governments and public entities. The aircraft must be registered in specific categories of public administration.
“Impacts of the pandemic on Brazilian civil aviation: crisis, challenges, and perspectives. Coordination: Mauro César Santiago Chaves, Tiago de Souza Pereira – 1st ed – São Paulo: Almedina, 2021 – Chapter 6: The impacts on business aviation in Brazil in 2020 – Marinho, Raul – p.161 to 186.”
Impactos da pandemia na aviação civil brasileira: crise, desafios e perspectivas. Coordenação: Mauro César Santiago Chaves, Tiago de Souza Pereira – 1ª ed – São Paulo: Almedina, 2021 – Cap. 6: Os impactos sobre a aviação de negócios do Brasil em 2020 – Marinho, Raul – p.161 a 186.