Turbo technical trouble

An air charter broker received a request to act for a principal who was seeking to charter an aeroplane for a flight two days later from Scotland to Morocco. The broker reviewed the available options for the principal and recommended the use of a small business jet which would offer a short flight time and enhanced comfort. However, the principal wanted a cheaper alternative and the broker instead looked to source a small turbo-prop for the flight.

The broker was unable to identify a suitable aircraft from his normal network. However, a colleague advised of a small operator who they had used before at short notice. This operator did have an aircraft available and the lease agreement was quickly drawn up. As part of his usual due diligence processes, the broker checked the air operator’s certificate (AOC) and details of the aircraft registration on the CAA website. He also obtained verbal assurances from the operator that the aircraft met all continuing airworthiness requirements.

Shortly after the planned departure time the broker received another call from his principal saying that the aircraft had diverted into East Midlands Airport with a technical defect. The broker eventually made contact with the operator and learnt that the aircraft technical problem was related to a known defect that had been deferred for some time under the provisions of the minimum equipment list. The aircraft was consequently not airworthy for several days while the defect was rectified.

The principal accused the broker of negligence. He claimed that the broker had failed to exercise reasonable care when sourcing the aircraft, and held the broker liable for the costs of leasing an alternative aircraft. ITIC defended the broker’s position as it was felt that the broker had acted with all due skill and care, and had taken all the steps that a reasonable broker would have done  in such a limited time frame.

A settlement was eventually reached, but the legal costs incurred were substantial. Both claim and costs were covered by ITIC.

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