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FAA to officially rule on flight-sharing services

There's been a lot of debate about the legality of flight sharing services like FlyteNow and AirPooler, but AirPooler has officially requested the FAA's legal interpretation to put the matter to bed. ( More...

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Jim Maxwell 3
Private pilots fly with cost sharing passengers every day. This is not Uber, not fare paying, not air taxi. As long as the posted flights proceed as planned (weather permitting, of course) regardless of passengers showing up or not, and the passenger cost is truly the pro-rata share of the plane's operating expenses, I see nothing wrong with it. That lines up with the regs. Is it illegal to post on a bulletin board that "I'm flying down to XXXX on July 12, anyone want to go and split the gas?"
Mike Williams 2
You are right - and I guess it is a little different than Uber because the point of Uber is specifically to provide a service for hire. I think this has a huge opportunity to get out of control.

If as a private pilot, I post a note on the FBO bulletin board saying I am flying to XXXX on July 12th, lets split the gas - the audience is pretty limited to mostly other pilots and hangar jockeys. They have a pretty good idea what GA is about. But where do we draw the line when you move to the internet? Would it be legal to post on the rideshare board on Craigslist? If it goes on a site like FlyteNow and I post I am flying to XXXX on July 12th, 2 seats left, $112 per seat is that going to far?

And then how do you enforce people that are not holding out (nobody bought a seat so I am cancelling the flight) ... or that the cost/price really is the pro-rata share?

Unfortunately the rule making is not keeping up with the technology. I am glad the FAA is going to issue an opinion on this.
Jim Maxwell 2
I agree it could get out of control. I think monthly limits are a good way to go toward containing that concern. I don't think it is going too far posting online if done properly. Hopefully they have a plane profile page where the hourly costs are maintained. Any database person can come up with a standard deviation query to flag the outliers. The site should calculate the passenger's share of the cost based on the plane profile, planned hours for the flight (including return), and the number of passengers who sign on (pro-rata). This is better than craigslist!

As far as holding out, the site should require the pilot and passengers to update the posting with the status of the flight. The only options should be: 1) Completed (pilot must include log info), 2) Not completed due to weather, and 3) Not completed due to mechanical/safety. The records should be maintained, and subject to audit if the site or FAA suspects a pilot is not following the rules.

Done right, with the service working with/providing useful data to the FAA, it could really help private pilots. Maybe even help stem the decline of the pilot population.
James Carlson 1
Note that the FAA has a much narrower view of this. To share costs pro rata, the pilot passengers must have a common purpose in the trip. If they're going on the trip for different reasons, then it's actually not legal, and private pilots *have* been busted on this. Read:

I'm not (at all!) saying that I think the FAA's rules are good or proper or even easy to understand, but just that the rules do exist and are not always followed.

I wouldn't be surprised if more than a few of the sharing scenarios are actually prohibited by current rules.
Mike Williams 1
I am curious if the FAA's pro-rata opinion has ever been tested in court. "Common Purpose" as defined in the article you linked sits in one huge grey area. I get that two people flying to a meeting or a breakfast fly-in are going on a common purpose. What about if I am flying with my wife to visit my in-laws - where I plan to play golf most of the trip? Is that no longer a common purpose in the eyes of the FAA (unless I bring her to the golf course with me?)

I guess what I mean is you can make anything appear as a common purpose - or not. If I am flying passengers with I just met, the common purpose could be we want to travel to (insert city name here) in a small airplane.

It seems like these regs are really only enforceable if some sort of audit or investigation takes place... like after an incident. Probably not from a ramp check.
James Carlson 1
Sadly, it's not hard to find records of successful enforcement actions over just this issue:

Yes, it would only happen if they found out, but there are numerous ways that can happen. One of the passengers might blab near an inspector. Or a nosy person on the ramp might see money change hands. Or somebody might post something on Facebook or Twitter after the flight about what a great pilot you are ...

For me, it's simple. I'm happy to fly others around, but I don't take money or anything else, period. Yes, it's a tough rule and some don't agree with it, but it's hard to color inside these lines.
ajc5453 2
I own a legal FAA Part 135 air charter company that has had a perfect safety record since we started in 1986. We have always had the most competition from the Part 91 guys who offers their service illegally. The FAA does not have the authority to stop these people. They have not been able to stop it even when the public has reported these illegal flight operations to them. How in the world would anyone expect the FAA to regulate pilots listing expense sharing flights on the internet. The FAA does not have the man power to complete their job task now and if you add to their workload then you would have to add more inspectors and there is no money for that. The Department of Transportation has much more authority than the FAA. The can actually put pilots in jail. The perfect example is the Challenger accident at Teterboro. Several people involved with the operation of that jet went to jail. The FAA could never accomplish that. They have no real power to enforce the regulations unless you have an air carrier certificate.
Fascinating. I was completely unaware that this was out there. I agree that it IS a fuzzy area; however, if some ground rules could be set up that made sense, I would be on board with this idea, and would even try to use it occasionally! We typically have 2-4 seats empty on our aircraft and helping to defray fuel costs would be awesome to say the least! Will have to keep an eye on this.
skyjumpr 1
Isn't this considered Holding Out? You are more or less advertising your services to ANY (keyword) bidder, which is prohibited without an operating certificate. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see the FAA approve this...but I have my doubts.
FlyteNow's position is that "holding out" does not apply because the flights are not operated under Part 119:

Personally, it seems like a bit of a circular argument to me - "You're not flying commercially because you're not holding out, because you're not flying commercially."

I'm curious to see what the FAA has to say about this, but I can't see myself ever being associated with this. I like my certificate too much.
Ben Hoge 1
I would be interested in a bulletin board website pilots to share rides only with other pilots whether for a $100 dollar burger trip/safety pilot etc. I wonder if the FAA would have any opinion on that.
Mike Williams 1
I like the concept of uber for general aviation but I am not as optimistic about it's success. The first few 50 hour private pilots that overload the FBO's rented 172 with "paying customers" and crash will surely put an end to it.

Not to mention, if you are advertising a trip and people are paying, they have an expectation of making it to their destination which puts more pressure on the pilot to compromise safety. So when this 50 hour VFR only private pilot runs into marginal weather conditions, he/she may not turn around or land like he would if the pressure was off.

This concept has already been out for a few years in the car community. I use uber all the time when I travel to another city... but even that is being cracked down on in a lot of places since it is basically an unregulated taxi service. There are a LOT more variables when it comes to planes. With uber, you are getting a trip across town - with flight sharing, you are usually going to another city and then factor in weather, weight and balance, TFR's, and everything else that makes flying fun.
@ mwilliams78 are you a plant for the FAA and regulations? While it needs to be regulated something needs to be done. Take a look at Linear Air. They have a great model that can be expanded upon. Maybe instead of a instructor building time as a instructor he actually flies passengers.
chalet 0
If the pilot is fully qualified as an ATP with all the necessary endorsements (single and multi engine, land, IFR, CFI, etc. on type/types) and the aircraft is properly maintained by a qualified FBO, not by some mechanic, perhaps, short of these requirements the answer is NO.
James Carlson 1
Why ATP? Commercial also has privileges in this area, but they, too, are limited by the part 119/135/121 rules. An ATP can't engage in "holding out" under the current rules to any greater degree than can a CP.
I read a couple of the comments, no time to scroll through all, would like to, but, this is what i was thinking when reading about this. I am in canada, so i don't know how it would apply in other places.
But, for someone to pickup a passenger in a personal car and that person happens to contribute something towards the cost of the trip, and then there is an accident, and the passenger gets hurt, they could sue the driver and it would be a new matter to deal with. Because now the driver is accepting something, will say money to make it easier, as a payment. to which it is illegal, but how many people really know this. That is why when a taxi company starts up they have to get the RIGHT insurance to be safe should something happen.
how does this apply to the topic of flight sharing?
Chris B 0
Makes me want to run to my GA insurance policy and see if carrying fare paying passengers is a no no. My gut says it is.
They are NOT paying a fare! That would make it a commercial operation. They are splitting actual operating costs, in which the pilot and/or plane owner doesn't make a profit (other that a reduced operating cost). If your insurance policy covers passengers, you are good to go. The regulation is already in place.
chalet -1
One thing is car pooling and another having paying passengers on board aircraft even if they contribute only for gas and lube oil. The FAA should come forward and stop this before something to regret happens.
If I were a private pilot,I'd consider the risk factor of whack jobs/nut bags who might want to use your plane and skill to carry out some type of dirty deed at gunpoint or some other threat. (" Oh hey, Mr. pilot, Do as I say or the bomb in my luggage/carry on, will blow this thing to smithereens");0 !


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