FAA Reinforces its Position on FAR 61.113

payment postingIn a recent legal interpretation, the FAA reinforced its position regarding the prohibition on private pilots operating aircraft for compensation or hire, as specified in FAR 61.113(a).  The legal opinion examined a scenario where a private pilot would fly at an airshow performance, but would not receive any monetary compensation, would not log flight time toward an additional certificate or rating, and would not receive additional benefits, amenities, or privileges than any other flight or ground crewmember volunteer.  The FAA observed that “compensation” includes non-monetary considerations such as fuel, aircraft rental and maintenance costs, flight time towards ratings or certificates, meals, and lodging.  In line with its previous legal positions, the FAA concluded that, if such amenities would not be provided but for the private pilot’s operation of an aircraft, they would be considered compensation in violation of the regulation.

As this legal interpretation makes clear, determining whether an amenity is considered “compensation” for purposes of FAR 61.113 is difficult.  Pilots should consult with an experienced aviation attorney before engaging in any flight activity that could be considered operation for compensation or hire.

Borrowing an Airplane Could Confer a Benefit Amounting to Compensation

In a recent opinion, the FAA Office of the Chief Counsel reiterated the agency’s broad interpretation of 14 C.F.R. 61.113, which governs the compensation of private pilots for flight activities.  The requestor posed a hypothetical situation where an aircraft owner would loan his airplane to a private pilot friend and require the friend to only pay for the cost of fuel actually used by the friend.  The FAA noted that under this scenario, the owner failed to charge his friend the actual pro rata cost of operating the aircraft (including maintenance and incidentals), instead only requiring his friend to purchase fuel.  Therefore, the FAA concluded that the friend received some financial benefit by avoiding the full cost associated with his operation of the aircraft which could violate the regulatory prohibition on private pilot compensation.

It is important for private pilots to remember that monetary benefits which violate 14 C.F.R. 61.113 encompass more than just the receipt of cash.  To avoid possible enforcement actions, pilots should consult with an experienced aviation attorney before entering into financial or quid pro quo arrangements involving the operation of aircraft.