On February 22, 2013, the FAA published a Policy Clarification on Charitable Medical Flights addressing the reimbursement of fuel expenses for pilot's flying charitable medical flights. As you may recall, 14 C.F.R. 61.113 prohibits a private pilot from acting as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire and, for any other flight carrying passengers, a private pilot may not pay less than his or her pro rata share of the operating expenses (fuel oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees). In order to pay less than his or her pro rata share the pilot would have to hold a commercial pilot certificate. As a result, up until recently private pilots operating charitable medical flights could not receive reimbursement for their fuel etc. without complying with Section 61.113, which defeated the purpose of a "charitable" medical flight.
However, Section 821 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 addressed the situation and now requires that the FAA allow an aircraft owner or operator to accept reimbursement from a volunteer pilot organization (such as Angel Flight, Wings of Mercy etc.) for the fuel costs associated with a flight operation to provide transportation for an individual or organ for medical purposes. In order to take advantage of this law, volunteer pilot organizations have petitioned the FAA for exemptions from the requirements of Section 61.113(c) so that their pilots can be reimbursed for some or all of the expenses they incur while flying these flights, since reimbursement for the flights would otherwise be prohibited by Section 61.113(c).
The FAA will issue these exemptions if the applying volunteer pilot organization complies with the following conditions and limitations by:
Developing of a pilot qualification and training program;
Authenticating pilots' FAA certification;
Requiring flight release documentation;
Imposing minimum pilot qualifications (flight hours, recency of experience, etc.);
Requiring a 2nd class FAA medical certificate;
Requiring the filing of an instrument flight plan for each flight;
Restricting pilots to flight and duty time limitations;
Requiring mandatory briefings for passengers;
Imposing higher aircraft airworthiness requirements; and
Requiring higher instrument flight rules (IFR) minimums.
Although these are the current restrictions, the various volunteer pilot organizations and the Air Car Alliance are continuing to work with the FAA to reduce these burdens that are placed on volunteer pilots and organizations who reimburse fuel. Fortunately, the FAA has indicated that it "will continuously update these conditions and limitations as necessary to best ensure these operations meet this equivalent level of safety." Hopefully those discussions will be productive and meaningful. But for now, fuel reimbursement should be available if the conditions for an exemption are met.
If you are an instrument rated pilot, you know that you have to be "current" in order to legally exercise the privileges of the instrument rating as pilot in command. Specifically, in order to act as pilot in command of an instrument flight FAR § 61.57(c) requires that the airman must have performed and logged (1) six instrument approaches; (2) holding procedures and tasks; and (3) intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems, all within the preceding 6 calendar months. Although these task may be performed in instrument conditions, they may also be performed in visual conditions by "simulating" instrument conditions.
As you might expect, in order to operate an aircraft in simulated instrument conditions, certain requirements must be met. FAR § 91.109(b) allows this type of operation in an aircraft equipped with fully functioning dual controls as long as ("1) the other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot who possesses at least a private pilot certificate with category and class ratings appropriate to the aircraft being flown; and (2) The safety pilot has adequate vision forward and to each side of the aircraft, or a competent observer in the aircraft adequately supplements the vision of the safety pilot."
Unfortunately, some airman can be confused about the role of the safety pilot during a simulated instrument flight. It isn't uncommon for airmen to refer to their safety pilot as being "second in command." However, unless the aircraft being used is type certificated for operation by more than one pilot or the operation conducted by the pilots requires a designated second in command (e.g. an operation conducted under FAR § 135.101 which requires a second in command for IFR operations), the designation of a safety pilot as an acting second in command crewmember is not accurate.
Now, you might be wondering how a safety pilot may "log" his or her flight time while acting as a safety pilot in that situation. Well, you need to keep in mind that "acting" as a second in command during a flight is different than "logging time" for acting as a safety pilot. Under the regulations, an airman may log second in command time for the portion of the flight during which he or she was acting as safety pilot because the safety pilot was a required flight crewmember for that portion of the flight under FAR § 91.109(b). In that situation the airman is only acting as a safety pilot, not as second in command for the flight.
The distinction between "acting" as second in command, or pilot in command for that matter, versus "logging" second in command or pilot in command time is an important one. Depending upon the circumstances, an airman may be able to both "act" as second in command or pilot in command and "log time" as second in command or pilot in command. In other situations, he or she may only be able to do one or the other.
Although it can be tricky, airmen need to make sure they understand the distinction to ensure that they are logging their time accurately and in compliance with the regulations.