In 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.