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8 Answers

LETTING SOMEONE FLY THE PLANE

Asked by: 3686 views FAA Regulations, General Aviation

My friend is a private pilot and i'm currently working on my private pilot certificate. Is it legal for him to take me flying, he being the PIC and sitting in the left seat, let me man the controls while in flight, taxiing or taking off? I hear about this all the time wit pilots letting family members learn to fly with them. Thanks.

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8 Answers



  1. Ryan Miller on Apr 13, 2012

    Your “friend” is the Pilot In Command (PIC) he is responsible for the safety of the flight. Technically speaking, he needs to be an appropriately rated instructor for the type of instruction given.
    In my earlier years, several people let me take the controls of twin engine airplanes. Is is right, not technically; however, it was fun! Safe Flying!

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  2. Donnie on Apr 14, 2012

    The original poster didn’t say anything about the PP giving instruction. That aside, can you point to a reg or letter of interpretation that says the original scenario is not legal? Whether it’s wise is a different story. And then there are insurance factors …

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  3. Johnnybgood1959 on Apr 14, 2012

    Donnie, good point. I did not say anything about the private pilot giving any instruction, as in my case i have over 30 hrs of flight time as a student pilot. The issue that I have is if my friend the PP being PIC during a flight, let me fly the airplane would this be against FAA regulations. He being in the left seat. I’m not sure how much clearer I can make this, but the answers that I’ve gotten from other pilots as well as CFI’s is very much on the fence. How do we bring closure to this with a yes or no answer? The other part of the question, let’s call it would be for my friend to let his wife, or kids fly the plane who do not have any formal experience and then I would have to think that he would be giving them some direction, not sure it would be instruction as if he was a CFI, but just enough direction to keep the plane straight and level. Would that be a different twist to this scenario and would that be legal also? Thanks.

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  4. Bill Trussell on Apr 14, 2012

    The FAA regulations speak to the person acting as Pilot in Command, and they also speak to someone logging time as PIC, as well as giving instruction for the purpose of meeting FAA regulations for gaining a pilot certificate. Those same rules are silent on what goes on outside these instances.  For you to fly with a friend and perform some of the functions of controlling the aircraft is ok under the FARs.  The big question is “is this a good idea” under the conditions existing or which may exist at any one time.  So, to answer your question, Yes it is ok.
    Having someone else touch the controls falls in the same category, ok under the FARs but questionable as a practice under certain conditions.  In each case, the certificated pilot remains the PIC and retains all responsibility for the safe outcome of the flight.
    All that said, it is very wise to select your time to fly with your friend, to have clear direction on who is really in charge and under what conditions he/she would assume control.  Your job would be to listen and obey those instructions. Most instructors, me included, would advise that this is a fuzzy area to get into and would possibly question the merit in doing this other than for the fun of it.  The learning value is questionable but certainly understandable from the having fun perspective

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  5. Curtis Ide on Apr 14, 2012

    I am being picky but it really doesn’t matter what seat the person is sitting in to act as PIC of a light aircaft unless the POH requires one or there is only one set of controls.  If your friend was flying in the right seat this scenario would still be the same.  On that note, if they decide to fly in the right seat of an aircraft I suggest they fly with an instructor and swap seats because the sight picture change can be dramatic for someone who has only flown on the left side.

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  6. Alex on Apr 14, 2012

    I have a friend who is a 1000+ hour pilot. Not a CFI: He routinely puts friends who are neither student pilots nor necessarily even have any informal flying experience but are INTERESTED in trying to fly in the LEFT seat, flies the plane (piper tripacer) from the right seat, and as appropriate within his judgment of safety/ability lets the non-pilot fly the plane.
    I before I got even one hour of formal flight training from a CFI I probably had 10 hours of informal flight time over the years at the controls of friends’ aircraft. One commercial pilot of a twin turboprop even let me take the control of that very sensitive 300knot plus aircraft for a few minutes on a charter flight.
    The EAA has a program called Young Eagles that takes youth up in volunteer pilot participant’s aircraft (and most of the pilots are NOT CFI’s — though some are) to deliberately give them some experience at the controls. I would expect if this were explicitly illegal the EAA would not do that.
    In my opinion, anyone who is a pilot and routinely flies with a non-pilot partner (spouse) who does NOT encourage the right seat passenger to learn a little hands on flying is being almost irresponsible. It is very useful — increases safety — to have a right seat passenger who you can trust enough at the controls to say “hold this altitude heading and speed for two minutes while I reprogram the GPS (or “look at the sectional” “work this cramp out of my foot” “reach back there for the water bottle” or whatever.)
    There is a program some CFIs participate in called Pinch-hitter that teaches a non pilot (wife or non pilot hubby typically) just enough flying to be able to operate the radio and fly a direction and land the plane.
    I realize this does NOT directly answer your question — which seems to be about the fine(?) points of legality, but concurs with the thrust of the other replies that pilots widely let others fly and given varying degrees of training to non pilots. The EAA young eagles program, though might hint at the legality of this practice.
    You might want to ask an aviation lawyer. But keep in mind they tend to lean toward in gray areas (and you better believe the law has gray areas) saying “no… you can’t do that.”
    Finally, as someone already suggested: Separate from legalities there is the question of insurance: If something went wrong (Oh, let’s say you were taxiing his aircraft and either through your fault or not you collided with another aircraft on the ground with $50,000 worth of damage or someone injured even slightly — let alone something even more serious) and the insurance company found out you, not your pilot friend, were at the controls at the moment of or just before the accident they might well refuse to cover the costs and refuse to provide legal defense.
    My two cents
    Alex

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  7. Matthew Waugh on Apr 16, 2012

    So to concur with the chorus – yes it’s OK. It raies any number of questions for the licensed pilot, but those problems belong to them not you.
     
    The other question – the FAA refers to “authorized instructors”, anybody can give instruction.

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  8. CSIP CFII on Apr 17, 2012

    Nothing wrong with it, as mentioned above, the EAA, CAP, and just pilots taking friends/family/etc. along.  The rated pilot just has to keep in mind that he (she) is the PIC, and should something happen while his passenger is flying, the blame will fall on the PIC’s shoulders regardless. 

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