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8 Answers

Flying Part 91 on a Contract??

Asked by: 8730 views Aircraft Systems, Commercial Pilot, General Aviation


I just started a new job, flying a Gentleman in his own plane from place to place. He pays me for my time and the flights.

I’m doing this on a contract not Part 135 in a small bonanza.

Now he wants me to fly without him to pick up his friends and fly them around. There is no money changing hands but I can’t prove that, and no real records other then the planes records are kept.  I posted on here before and looked threw the Far Aim for simple answers on what I can/can’t do (clear as mud).

If you do this same kind of work I would love some advice on what I can and can’t do, and how you cover your ass.

Thanks for your time and help.


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8 Answers

  1. Matthew Waugh on May 30, 2011

    As long as there is no “compensation” changing hands between these “friends” and your gentleman owner you are good to go.
    You can never really “know” that there is no compensation going on, since it can be in many forms, all you can do is make sure your boss knows the rules and trust him. I suppose if you thought you get away with it and keep you job you could draw up some kind of document that made it clear you were flying on a Part 91 basis and your employer understood the rules. It might help with the FAA if push came to shove.

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  2. John D. Collins on May 30, 2011

    My understanding is that assuming you are a commercial pilot and the aircraft is not being operated for hire, you may contract with the owner of the aircraft to provide piloting services for his aircraft under FAR part 91.   You do not have operational control of the aircraft, as you are not providing the aircraft, the owner is.  You are just providing pilot services to the owner.  The FAA uses a “single source rule” to determine if the operation is a commercial operation.  As long as the operation is under part 91 and you do not provide both the aircraft and the piloting services, then it is not considered a commercial operation. You should be able to fly the aircraft for the owner and be compensated.  If the owner wants you to deadhead the airplane back to its home base, then pick him up later, or pickup friends or associates and fly them somewhere, etc., then you can be compensated for the flights and it will not be commercial carriage for hire. 

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  3. James MacGregor on May 30, 2011

    Lest we forget the mileage rule. How far does he have you fly, do you always land at the same airport you took off at?? Sounds to me like this is a “not a charter” charter flights, make sure he knows what that means and be VERY careful.

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  4. Best Answer

    Matthew Waugh on May 31, 2011

    As a follow-up – you don’t have to prove it’s NOT a charter, the FAA has to prove it is.
    I’m not sure what Jame’s point is – 1 mile, 50 miles, 500 miles, it’s all charter if it’s for compensation or hire. It’s perfectly possible for nice people to let people use their planes and their pilots for their own purposes. The trick is, most people expect a quid pro quo – and there’s the compensation problem rearing it’s head again. If you fly your gentleman and his friends to a golf course, and his friends pick up the round of golf in return for him flying them all there – oh dear, we’ve got a technical foul.
    The reason this goes on – who’s going to find out? These situations mostly come to light when one of the friends calls the local FAA just to enquire if paying his friend $100 for a flight is right or is he being over-charged? Say what you like about the FAA, but serve it up on a silver platter even they can figure it out.

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  5. geno on May 31, 2011

    Thank you Matthew Waugh

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  6. James MacGregor on May 31, 2011

    The milage is for a ride flight. As for the FAA proving it is a charter, boy if they think it MIGHT be your going to be having them on your back, tell them to “prove it” I can see how that’s going to go over. You are bending/breaking the rules of a charter, Proceed with caution

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  7. Andy Neumann on Jul 11, 2011

    I don’t see how you are breaking any rules.  What you described in your initial question is what thousands of corporate pilots do under Part 91 every day.  As long as your boss is not hiring the airplane out and/or accepting any form of compensation from the passengers, you are fine in the eyes of the FAA.  Now the IRS is another question…
    There’s even a way to receive compensation legally under Part 91 through what is called a “timesharing agreement.”  NBAA has an exemption to make timesharing legal for small aircraft, even though that’s not what the regs say.  http://www.nbaa.org/admin/options/timeshare/

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  8. Scott Stahl on Aug 28, 2011

    You may want to check a couple of things.The first resource i would suggest is AC120-12A regarding Common versus Private Carriage.
    There seems to be a lot of misconception and grey area regarding what constitutes “Common Carriage,” but it is defined by the FAA as a willingness to “Hold Out.”  “Holding out” in turn means availing yourself to a large portion of the population for the purpose of carrying them from Point A to Point B, whether you advertise or not.  The fact that you are getting paid for your time implies that you are flying for compensation or hire, and as I would interpret it, the fact that he is having you fly random people around would imply that you are “holding out.”  The intent of the regulation is to A) prevent those without commercial licenses from carrying just anybody in a “commercial operation,” and B) to prevent those with commercial certificates, but operating outside the air carrier regulations (Part 135 and 121), from making themselves widely available to the traveling public.  This stems from the FAA’s mandate to ensure safety to the traveling public and in doing so ensuring that the much more lax Part 91 operations are not using the looser rules to circumvent the tighter requirements of Air Carrier operations.
    The Advisory Circular also provides some basic information on the number of contracts that have been found to be acceptable by the FAA, and provides a range.  Yes, there is a large grey area in there.
    The best bet is to inform the owner of the airplane of the possible ramifications and then coordinate with the local FSDO to see if they would consider it common carriage, since they will ultimately be responsible for interpreting and enforcing it.  Get their answer in writing, and you are essentially either approved or disapproved at that point.  Don’t admit if you have already done it, approach it as a hypothetical what if scenario (obviously).
    Personally, I would tend to interpret that as Common Carriage on the owner’s part, since he is availing his airplane to basically what could be construed as a wide segment of the population.  As a commerical pilot, it is YOUR responsibility to know what can and can’t be done, so the FAA would probably try to violate both of you.  As far as the FAA having to prove that it was Common Carriage, that is true, but it is going to be a process that you don’t want to encounter.  They are going to violate, fine, and then suspend your certificate pending completion of the process, and if you lose, it will stick permanently.  I would tend to get clarification first, because it seems like the best way forward.  If the owner understand the possible legal ramifications, I can’t see him providing a lot of resistance.

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