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Air operator's certificate

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Air operator's certificate

An air operator's certificate (AOC) is the approval granted by a 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 system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public. The certificate will list the aircraft types and registrations to be used, for what purpose and in what area - specific airports or geographic region.


AOCs can be granted for one or more of the following activities:[1]

Low capacity operations is when operating aircraft with under 38 passenger seats, high capacity is above that.[2]


The requirements for obtaining an AOC vary from country to country, but are generally defined as:[3][4]

  • 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.[5]
  • 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 ports 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 United States.


As an AOC shows the acceptance of the relevant NNA of the operators personnel, infrastructure and procedures, it holds value. In most jurisdiction an AOC may be sold or acquired to prevent the arduous process of gaining regulator acceptance for a new AOC. This can allow failed airlines to be sold as a going concern and then more easily changed into another business. This has occurred with FLYi airline's AOC being bought by Northwest Airlines to start Compass Airlines, now a feeder airline for Delta Air Lines marketed as Delta Connection, and also with Strategic Airlines purchasing the AOC, staff and routes of the failed OzJet airlines.[6]

United States

According to the United States Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration is to maintain an airline air carriers operating certificate in the category of fitness an air carrier must maintain the following three standards:[7] adequate financing, competent management, a willingness to comply with applicable laws, and regulations which include at least 75 percent of airlines controlling voting equity must be held by US citizens.


  1. ^ "Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia - What is an Air Operator’s Certificate and do you need one?". Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  2. ^ "Australian Civil Aviation Order 20.4" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-02-07. 
  4. ^ EU-OPS1 (COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 859/2008 of 20 August 2008 amending Council Regulation (EEC) No 3922/91 as regards common technical requirements and administrative procedures applicable to commercial transportation by aeroplane
  5. ^ Civil Aviation (Carriers’ Liability) Act 1959 s.41C (Commonwealth of Australia)
  6. ^ "Strategic steps in to buy OzJet". Travel Weekly. 29 June 2009. 
  7. ^ [1]

External links

  • CAA UK - List of UK COA Holders
  • CASA Australia - Search for an AOC.
  • FAA USE - Searchable Database of Certificate Holders
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