In a recent legal opinion, the FAA concluded that in the modern world of celebrity endorsement, an aircraft manufacturer may seek reimbursement for promotional flights involving a celebrity spokesperson. The manufacturer was seeking to pay celebrities to make appearances on its behalf in order endorse the manufacturer’s products. In seeking a legal opinion, the manufacturer represented to the FAA that providing transportation to paid celebrity endorsers in order to assist with marketing, promoting, and ultimately selling the manufacturer’s products was within the scope of, and incidental to, the business of the company, in accordance with the requirements of FAR 91.501.
However, the FAA cautioned that FAR 91.501 is a limited exception to certification requirements for commercial operators and air carriers, requiring the manufacturer, if challenged, to prove how the transportation of celebrity endorsers is within the scope of, and incidental to, the business of the company. As the FAA points out in this and other legal opinions, there is no hard and fast rule regarding reimbursement for Part 91 operations. Due to the complexity of the regulatory framework involved, manufacturers and operators should seek experienced legal counsel before seeking reimbursement for any Part 91 flight or instituting a program of reimbursement for certain aviation business activities.