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Business Jet Crashes Show Rise of Rule-Breaking Charter Brokers

Business Jet Crashes Show Rise of Rule-Breaking Charter Brokers

The Bombardier Challenger CL-600 chartered jet carrying employees of New York-based private equity firm Kelso & Co. was barreling down the runway of New Jersey´s Teterboro Airport at almost 127 miles per hour en route to Chicago when the plane failed to lift off.

The pilots hit the brakes and thrust reversers, sending the two-engine jet skidding across U.S. Route 46. It wound up almost halfway inside a clothing warehouse after ramming through the building´s brick wall.

More than three years after the February 2005 crash, which injured all 11 people aboard and three on the ground, controversy is still raging over the charter jet industry and its methods for ferrying well-heeled passengers. The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are zeroing in on brokers and other intermediaries in the $ 8 billion-a-year U.S. charter business.

These unlicensed, lightly regulated companies don´t fly the planes, much less own them. They make their money by arranging flights and charging as much as 20 percent of a trip´s cost, which can soar to more than $9,000 an hour, according to prices quoted on Teterboro-based Freedom Jets Inc.´s Web site.

In contrast to the luxury trappings of private jets, charter brokering is a bare-knuckle trade in which companies can scramble for profits and poach each other´s clients and employees. The stock promoters for one broker, Austin, Texas-based Connect-A- Jet.com Inc., were sued last March for fraud by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The case was pending as of mid-August.

Read more at Bloomberg.com