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4 Answers

Aerial Photography under part 91?

Asked by: 3212 views FAA Regulations, Private Pilot

I have been having a lot of trouble getting consistent answers to my question with regard to regulations pertaining to aerial photography under part 91.  I'm hoping for an accurate answer based on my specific scenario.  I am a commercial pilot in Helicopters, but only have my private certification in airplanes. I own my own airplane, and would like to sell photographs I take while in the air.  My interpretations of part 119 and part 91 lead me to believe that as long as I am not carrying persons or cargo for hire, that I can sell such photographs. Specifically, I am not carrying a photographer as a pilot for hire, but I am the pilot and photographer.  The intent is not to be paid for my service as a pilot or for the use of my aircraft per-SE, but rather to be paid as a photographer offering the service of photographs taken from the air.  Obviously the customer commissioning a photograph which needs to be taken from the air would have to cover the cost of taking said photographs, which would naturally include the cost of the aircraft operation.   I have heard of photographers hiring pilots in rented aircraft to fly them around for the purposes of aerial photography, and the photographer is legally allowed to pass the cost of the pilot and aircraft rental on to the end customer. What I do not understand is how do the regulations apply to me if I do not need to hire a pilot or rent an aircraft, but in fact have my own aircraft and can do the flying myself.  Again, I would not be charging customers specifically for piloting an aircraft. The use of my aircraft would be incidental to the service of supplying a photo taken from the air.   Can I legally take photographs from my own aircraft, and sell them to a customer under part 91? if not and it falls under part 119, why? especially if the operation of an aircraft is not the specific service being provided, but is merely a means to supply a photograph from an aerial perspective.

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4 Answers

  1. Best Answer

    Mark Kolber on Jul 01, 2014

    Unfortunately, in 2010 the FAA Chief Counsel published an interpretation that one must have a commercial pilot certificate in order to engage in aerial photography, even as the pilot/photographer of his or her own airplane. 2010 Perry Letter

    The differing opinions you received is probably because, as this letter itself says, there were differing opinions within the FAA itself.

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  2. Thomas Vaillencourt on Jul 01, 2014


    Thanks for the reply, and excellent reference!

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  3. Thomas Vaillencourt on Jul 01, 2014

    Looks like I will be doing an add-on!

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  4. Jonathan Seitz on Jul 03, 2014

    Thomas, not only is that an issue with the FAA, but most likely with your insurance company as well. Most want to see a commercial certificate to approve that use. If you don’t have that on there, it’s a bad idea to do these missions without telling them, as you could get a claim denied.

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