Tip #1: If you want to fly smarter, do your research.
#2 Ask for a certificate from FAA: Every charter operator must have a certificate from the FAA showing that his or her operation meets or exceeds the agency’s standards for aircraft maintenance, management control and oversight of its crew’s training, flight time and health. Your safety depends on flying with a legally certified air taxi operator; never fly with an operator who does not appear to hold proper FAA certification. You may also wish to ask for verification of the type and limits of insurance coverage carried by the operator.
#3 Does the pilot hold the proper certificate: Your pilot must hold either a Commercial Pilot Certificate or an Air Transport Pilot Certificate issued by the FAA, just as his or her airline counterpart does. Every six months he or she undergoes a mandatory proficiency check-ride with an FAA inspector, who also verifies the pilot’s knowledge of standard operating procedures and the aircraft he or she is flying – just like the airlines. #4 Don’t be afraid to call the FAA office: Before chartering an aircraft, you may wish to exercise your right to contact your regional FAA office and request verification that the charter operation is certified for the trip you’re planning. The telephone number is easily found on the FAA’s Web page at http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/. Or, just ask your selected charter company. Most are pleased to deal with an educated consumer and are proud of their safety record. They can provide you with the certificate number and the phone number of the FAA inspector responsible for overseeing operations. If a charter company is unwilling or reluctant to provide answers to questions about their certificate and authorized operations, or does not want you to contact the FAA for verification, you would be wise to consider another company to fill your travel requirements.