Informal Avionics Testing Found Not to Violate FAR 61.113(a)

A private pilot who installed her company’s avionics in her personal aircraft and provided feedback on the avionics’ performance was found not to have violated FAR 61.113(a), which prohibits private pilots from carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire.  In a recent response to a request for legal interpretation, the FAA determined that because the private pilot was not compensated for testing the avionics or for providing feedback on the avionics’ performance, and because she did not conduct her flights at the direction of her company, she was not carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire as proscribed by FAR 61.113(a).

Because every situation is unique, any determination regarding whether a private pilot could potentially violate FAR 61.113(a) should be made with the assistance of an experienced aviation attorney.

Certificate Requirements Not Avoided by Creative Corporate Structure


In a recent memorandum, the FAA scrutinized two complex aircraft lease arrangements involving multiple corporate entities to find that the corporations engaged in wet leasing without the requisite Part 119 certificates.  Although the situations analyzed in the memorandum were hypothetical, they reflect real-world issues that arise when subsidiaries or shell entities are formed for the sole purpose of leasing aircraft within the company or to closely related entities.  Corporations seeking to own or lease aircraft should consult with an aviation attorney experienced in ownership and leasing issues.

Court Dismisses 100LL AvGas Suit

A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by Friends of the Earth seeking to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to determine that lead emissions from aircraft using 100LL fuel pose a danger to public health as defined by the Clean Air Act of 1970.  The lawsuit effectively halted the development and testing of 100LL alternatives, which is a priority for the general aviation industry.  The court dismissed the case on jurisdictional grounds, finding that the EPA’s denial of a citizen’s petition for rulemaking is properly reviewed by the Court of Appeals.  Although groups such as EAA and AOPA have long advocated for the development of alternative lead-free fuels for general aviation aircraft without EPA rulemaking or litigation, no lead-free alternative has been certificated for use in general aviation aircraft to date.  Accordingly, the Friends of the Earth case might not be the final lawsuit filed on this issue.

Sequestration Comes to New Jersey

The FAA has released it schedule of tower closings due to federal sequestration.  According to statistics provided by  AOPA, the FAA is being forced to cut $600 million, about 5 percent of its budget, and the Contract Tower Program is slated to take a 75-percent cut.  On the list of tower closings is Trenton Mercer Airport (TTN) in Ewing, New Jersey.  Situated on the edge of the Philadelphia Class B airspace, Trenton Mercer Tower provides key coordination and separation services for both air carrier and general aviation operations.  Pilots should check the tower closing list and call ahead to verify whether ATC services will be available at their destination.  For safety and compliance, pilots who do not regularly operate at uncontrolled airports should review non-towered airport procedures prior to departure.

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.

FAA to Begin “Ratcheting Down” Operations Under Sequestration

This week, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta laid out the FAA’s plan if mandatory federal budget cuts go into effect on March 1.  He indicated that sequestration will mean furloughs, shuttered control towers, slowed NextGen modernization programs, selective repairs of navigation aids, and a “steady ratcheting down” of FAA operations.  According to AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Melissa Rudinger, general aviation will suffer the greatest impacts of sequestration.

Because the budget reduction program requires percentage-based cuts across the board, all FAA programs will be vulnerable, including control towers under the FAA’s Contract Tower Program, which are expected to gradually close.   Eventually Lockheed-Martin Flight Service and DUAT flight planning will also be affected.  Advocacy groups, including AOPA, are pushing for a legislative solution before the March 1 deadline.

FAA Proposes to Swallow Cornelia Fort Airpark Class C Exclusion

In a recent proposal, the FAA set forth its plan to take back a Class C airspace exclusion extending from the surface up to 2,400 feet MSL, which extends in a 1.5 NM radius around the former Cornelia Fort Airpark.  Although Cornelia ceased operations last year, the Class C exclusion remains approximately 4 NM north of Nashville International Airport (KBNA).  The only reason cited by the FAA for removing the Class C airspace exclusion is that “it would restore the Class C surface area to the standard configuration of a 5 NM radius around Nashville International Airport and would enhance the management of aircraft operations at the airport.”  However, the FAA failed to cite any current issue with the management of aircraft around KBNA which would necessitate removing the current exclusion.  Public comments regarding this proposal must be received by April 1, 2013.

FAA Reinforces Importance of Stick and Rudder Skills

In a recent Safety Alert for Operators, the FAA observed that heavy reliance on automated flight systems is causing pilots to lose proficiency in hand flying their aircraft.  The FAA recommends that operators integrate both automatic and manual flight operations to help pilots stay proficient in their stick and rudder skills.  However, it also acknowledged the importance of automation during high workload flight phases


FAA Releases Superbowl XLVII Flight Advisory

The FAA has released a Flight Advisory for Super Bowl XLVII, outlining anticipated TFRs over the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana (HRV VORTAC 331 Radial at 6.2 NM).  Please remember to check TFRs and NOTAMs frequently.  If you are contacted by the FAA regarding a possible TFR violation, we recommend that you consult with an experienced aviation attorney as soon as possible.

FAA Proposes to add Wildlife Management Requirements to Federal Airport Grant Program

In a December 10, 2012 Federal Register notice, the FAA announced its proposal to require non-certificated airports that receive federal grant funds to identify and mitigate wildlife hazards at their airports.  The mitigation mandate will take the form of initial Wildlife Hazard Site Visits (WHSVs) or Wildlife Hazard Assessments (WHAs), depending on the
size of the airport, potentially followed by more detailed Wildlife Hazard Management Plans (WHMPs).

The FAA’s stated purpose of a WHSV is for the airport to identify any immediate hazards and for the FAA to determine whether a more comprehensive WHA is necessary.  However, small general aviation airports may become unnecessarily burdened by these proposed requirements.  Wildlife hazard mitigation programs can be costly and burdensome, especially in the current fiscal climate.  Airport owners and managers with questions or concerns about the FAA’s proposed Wildlife Hazard Assessment program should consult with legal counsel.