The NTSB released its biennial “Most Wanted List” of safety improvements on Feb. 4 and among them was a recommendation to hold FAR Part 135 air charter, air medical and other operations to the same requirements that apply to scheduled airlines.

It said all such operators should implement a safety management system (SMS), which the FAA has required of airlines operating under Part 121 since 2018. The board also called on Part 135 operators to implement flight-data monitoring (FDM) of their operations to identify and correct deviations from company procedures and train pilots to avoid controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). Such training is required for Part 135 helicopter operations but not for fixed-wing operations.

“A number of Part 135 operators do operate with a high level of safety,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said. “But we have investigated crashes that have killed people — paying passengers and crewmembers — and as a result of those investigations we have found that there are ways that Part 135 operators could improve. We feel that paying passengers should have the same levels of safety they would [have] if they were to get on a commercial airline.”

NTSB preliminary aviation statistics from 2017 show 51 total accidents involving Part 135 commuter and on-demand carriers, with eight fatal accidents and 16 fatalities. The Safety Board reported 38 accidents involving Part 135 operators in 2016, nine of which were fatal, involving 27 overall fatalities.