Who is the operator?
6.1 The term 'operator' is defined in article 3(4) for the purposes of the Order. That article provides as follows:
For the purposes of the application of any provision of this Order in relation to any particular aircraft, “Operator” means:
(a) Subject to paragraph (b), the person who at the relevant time has the management of that aircraft;
(b) for the purposes of Part 31, when a person other than an air transport undertaking or an aerial work undertaking has chartered, hired, leased or borrowed the aircraft for a period not exceeding 14 days that person is not considered to be the operator.
6.2 The operator of an aircraft must be the organisation or person who exercises operational control of the aircraft. Operational control means the exercise by the operator, in the interest of safety, of responsibility for the initiation, continuation, termination or diversion of a flight. It should be noted that this is a matter of substance, i.e. the operator is the person who actually undertakes such matters.
6.3 The operator’s management of an aircraft will typically involve some or all of the following activities:
employment of flight crew;
preparation and maintenance of operations manual;
responsibility for entering into contracts for particular operations;
flight planning, fuelling and repairing the aircraft;
keeping the required aircraft etc log books;
briefing the flight crew;
control of the operation in the sense of deciding when the aircraft will take off, where it will go, and what it will carry;
the ability to abort the operation.
In the event that any supporting functions are contracted out the operator still retains overall responsibility: operational control cannot be contracted out.
6.4 In summary therefore, where an aircraft is under the management of an AOC holder any flights operated with it that carry passengers (unless they fall within the exception noted in 2.2 above for employees of the operator or authorised persons) or cargo are commercial air transport flights.
1 Part 3 of the Order, Airworthiness and Equipment of Aircraft.