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3 Answers

Flying for a family member on business

Asked by: 1922 views FAA Regulations, Private Pilot


As a private pilot, I am aware that I may, in general, fly on personal business, but if I carry a passenger, I can't accept more than half of expenses from him.

My father is a professional photographer. We live in the same city, and have a number of common interests (a lot of the places I would fly over for my own interest on a pleasure flight are places he would enjoy flying over to photograph.) This raises several interesting questions about the limits of what a private pilot is allowed to do.

Question #1: is my legal status different if I am just flying him around for him to take pictures of whatever looks interesting to him for his own files, vs. flying him around because a client has hired him to take a particular set of aerial photographs?

Question #2: he wishes he (or his clients) could pay for all of the aircraft rental vs. half. Obviously he cannot do so directly. A) is he allowed to make me an employee of his photography business and pay me an hourly rate for assisting him, out of which I would pay my half of the plane? B) As my father, he is allowed by the IRS to give me up to $10,000 a year as a gift. Is the FAA going to be mad if he gives me a gift this December that happens to be comparable in size to how much we spent flying together?


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3 Answers

  1. Wes Beard on Jun 14, 2012

    It is a definite area where you want to have a lot of caution and do your homework.  The regulations require the private pilot to pay their pro rata share of the flight.  If you search the Legal Interpretations from the FAA you will find that a private pilot must (1) have a purpose of the flight, (2) determine the departure and destination airports and (3) determines the time when / whether the flight takes place.
    Your dad cannot make any of these decisions or you are dangerously close to crossing into a Part 135 operation.  If your dad comes along on a flight that meets the criteria above and takes lots of pictures that is completely acceptable.
    Question #1:  You status is not different if you follow the criteria above whether or not he decides to sell those pictures.  If a client has hired your dad to take pictures of a specific landmark then you are no longer compliant with the criteria above.
    Question #2:  His clients cannot pay anything for the flight. Period.  He can pay for the pro rata share on those flights that meet the above criteria.  If he hires you to do a job and flying is part of it, then you are flying in furtherance of a business and are not allowed to do so.  
    The current IRS rules allow your Dad and Mom to each give you $13,000 a year ($26,000 total) without getting into a gift tax penalty.  If they were to do this, it wouldn’t have any bearing on this discussion.  It would be a completely different thing and I would treat it like that.  Make sure to talk to a tax advisor before you do for possible tax liability concerns. 

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  2. CFI Academy on Jul 12, 2012

    Another reason for you to get your commercial pilot certificate….:-)

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  3. CFI Academy on Jul 12, 2012

    I wonder – what would be the situation if your dad owns his own airplane, and then lets you fly him around…..? I’ll think over this later, but decided to post this here anyways for others to discuss.

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