Business Aviation

  • Holland & Knight's Business Aviation Team assists clients in the acquisition and financing of business aircraft.
  • We structure our clients' aviation operations to reduce liability exposure, comply with the myriad federal and state regulatory requirements and take full advantage of tax planning opportunities.
  • Our team advises clients on a full range of aviation law issues, from flying political candidates and personal use of corporate aircraft to litigation related to their aircraft.

Business aircraft are high value, high visibility assets and the legal issues surrounding their acquisition, financing and operation are often complex. Holland & Knight's Business Aviation Team has broad experience representing virtually every segment of the industry, from the public companies and high-net-worth individuals who own and operate business aircraft, to the financial institutions, manufacturers and operators that finance, build and manage them. Backed by one of the largest aviation practices in the United States, our team can guide you through the myriad legal challenges that arise in this industry.

International Capability

With offices in the Latin America and the United Arab Emirates, our firm is well-positioned to assist with international transactions in these regions and around the globe. We have vast experience handling cross-border business aircraft transactions and regularly represent owners, air carriers and financial institutions in such transactions, both in the commercial and business aircraft segments.

Members of our team are well-versed in the export, customs and airworthiness issues that arise in cross-border aircraft transactions and we frequently collaborate with the firm's international tax lawyers in an effort to minimize the associated tax liabilities.

Closing an Aircraft Acquisition or Sale

For many owners and operators of business aircraft, buying and selling aircraft is not their primary business and they rely on our team to facilitate the deal. Our primary objective in every deal is to protect your interests and this means more than just properly planning and documenting the transaction. It means developing creative solutions and quickly shepherding a deal to closure, particularly in the used-aircraft market where excessive time can jeopardize a transaction. Our services in this area include:

  • purchase documentation: drafting and negotiating letters of intent and purchase agreements that protect your interests and reduce the risk of disputes and litigation related to failed transactions
  • tax issues: advising on tax issues, including 1031 like-kind exchanges, depreciation and state sales and use tax planning
  • technical pre-buy issues: working with brokers, pilots and charter managers to resolve issues that may arise during the negotiation and/or pre-buy inspection
  • trusts: establishing owner trusts in circumstances where foreign ownership of the company would otherwise prevent ownership of a U.S. registered aircraft
  • financing: structuring and negotiating financial solutions that are tailored to your unique circumstances

Structuring and Restructuring of Business Aviation Assets

Given the costs and potential exposures involved in owning and operating business aircraft, establishing and maintaining a proper structure is critical. Our team will work with your in-house counsel and accountants to determine an optimal structure that addresses the complex regulatory and tax issues that can arise. We will also help you navigate the following issues:

  • tax planning: optimizing your tax posture, including depreciation of the aircraft, state sales and use tax planning and reducing flights subject to the transportation tax (federal excise tax)
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory advice: structuring operations to comply with Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) while allowing for usage by related companies and entities through dry leases, interchange agreements and timesharing arrangements in accordance with FAR 91.501
  • reducing liability exposure: advising on how best to reduce the exposure of the principal company assets through use of an effective operations structure and a careful insurance and contract review
  • alternative structures: determining if an alternative structure, such as a charter management arrangement, joint-ownership or leasing, may be more effective for achieving your business objectives

Unique Issues for Business Aviation Operations

Whether drafting a corporate aircraft usage policy or answering one-time questions, our business lawyers can draw on the broad legal resources within our firm to address any legal concern, including matters that are unique to business aviation operations. For example, we frequently advise clients on the following issues:

  • political candidates: providing advice on state and federal elections laws, aviation regulations for private operators and tax implications of flying candidates and government officials
  • fractional shares: assisting with the purchase and resell of fractional shares with all of the major fractional programs, including loan and lease documentation, like-kind exchanges and dispute resolution with respect to resale value of fractional shares
  • government contract flying: providing assistance on unique export issues, finance and other issues that arise with special mission aircraft and flying for the government

Business Aviation Industry Experience

Our business aviation lawyers work in collaboration with the firm’s aviation structured finance, aviation regulatory, aviation litigation and tax lawyers to provide comprehensive legal services to the business aviation industry, including:

  • FAA/Department of Transportation (DOT): representing domestic and foreign air carriers, including charter management companies, in regulatory matters before the DOT and the FAA, including applications for commuter air carrier authority, DOT/FAA investigations and penalty matters and general regulatory compliance issues
  • tax audit: representing aircraft owners in state tax audits regarding sales and use tax
  • corporate aircraft usage policies: drafting corporate use policies to cover personal use, carriage of political candidates, SEC reporting and related issues
  • HAZMAT violations: representing clients in investigations and penalty proceedings brought by the FAA for improper carriage of hazardous materials by air
  • dispute resolution: handling litigation, arbitrations and mediations for the full range of commercial disputes
  • accident investigation and litigation: advising aviation clients, including manufacturers and operators, in National Transportation Safety Board investigations and in defending those clients in tort actions arising out of aircraft accidents
  • maintenance agreements: representing airlines in negotiating maintenance contracts and handling disputes
  • mergers and acquisitions: addressing diligence and regulatory issues in connection with mergers and acquisitions of air carriers, aircraft manufacturers and parts manufacturers