February 2019 Aviation Articles

What Is Compensation According To The FAA?

FAA’s policy regarding “compensationPilots and aircraft operators frequently misunderstand the FAA’s policy regarding “compensation” in the context of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). And this concept appears frequently in the FARs.

For example, under 14 C.F.R. 61.113(a), a private pilot may not carry persons or property for compensation or hire, or act as pilot in command for compensation or hire. Additionally, if a flight or operation is conducted for compensation or hire, that flight or operation may be subject to operational requirements and/or limitations under 14 C.F.R. Parts 91, 135 or 121. Such a flight or operation may also have additional medical certification prohibitions or requirements.

So, what then is “compensation” according to the FAA?

The FAA’s longstanding policy and perspective views “compensation” very broadly. Compensation isn’t just the exchange of cash. Rather, it can be receipt of anything of value that is conditioned upon or in exchange for operation of the aircraft. And the exchange of value does not require a profit or profit motive. A beneficial economic relationship will qualify as compensation.

According to the FAA, compensation may include, but is not limited to:

  • Reimbursement of expenses (e.g. fuel, oil, transportation, airport expenditures, aircraft rental fees, lodging, costs of ownership etc.);

  • A free meal;

  • Logging of flight time when the pilot does not have to pay for the costs of operating the aircraft;

  • Salary or wages; and

  • Goodwill in the form of expected future economic benefit.

While some of these items can readily be understood to be compensation, the FAA determines whether an operator is receiving something of value in exchange for operating an aircraft on a case-by-case basis and its decision will depend greatly on the purpose and objective of the flight or operation.

So, pilots and operators need to analyze their flights and operations to determine whether they are, in fact, receiving compensation for those flights and operations and, if so, what impact that compensation may have on whether such flights and operations comply with the regulations. Failure to comply could subject the pilots and/or operator to legal enforcement action that could result in suspension or revocation of airman certificates or a civil penalty.

Sometimes the experts are wrong

When you’re working toward earning your private pilot’s license, and you’re not sure you’re gonna have the time or the cash flow to make it happen, most of the self-proclaimed experts will give you one piece of advice.

Whether it’s a column in a flying magazine, a message thread on a Facebook aviation fan page or a couple of CFIs opining on your favorite podcast, they all chant the same mantra:

If you don’t have the money to fly regularly – at least once a week -- then stop.

Quit floundering in the wind.

Take a break from flying.

Save up your money. For weeks. Months. Years, even. However long it takes to build a cash mountain that will keep fuel flowing in the tanks on a continual basis. THEN start back up again.

If you can’t go weekly, don’t go at all.

At least that’s what they say.

Travis first flightMy first flight was on June 11, 1994. My parents had a rule:  Until I graduated high school, no motorcycles and no airplanes. Well, I was now a brand new high school grad – and I still remember my first flight that hot, humid, hazy Saturday morning with instructor Mark Loring. According to my logbook, we were up for 0.7 hours in a Piper Warrior (I’ll always love you N9886K), and we practiced climbs and descents, level turns and dutch rolls out of Bowman Field (KLOU) in Louisville, Kentucky. When it was over, I celebrated with deep-dish sausage pizza at the Bearno’s across the street from the airport.

I couldn’t believe I had my first entry in my Pilot Logbook.

I couldn’t believe I had a Pilot Logbook.

Eventually, my family got into the flight school business. I had easy access to aircraft and flight instructors. Looking back, I can’t believe how spoiled I was. I was allowed to work the desk at the flight school in exchange for flight time – and soon I was well on my way toward getting my PPL ticket. My first solo was on July 31, 1997. Then came my solo cross countries. My long solo-cross country.

But then, suddenly, things changed.

Our family got out of the flight school business. I moved out of the house. Graduated from college. Launched a new career. Gas prices went up – and my disposable income went down. In the meantime, a handful of evil, selfish people decided to fly airliners into buildings in New York. I changed careers again.

I didn’t get my PPL.

Instead, I took a break from flying. In fact, the very idea of spending money on flying airplanes was laughable. I would still look back on flying wistfully, but as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t in the cards. My medical expired, my sectionals and FAR/AIM s were WAY out of date, and my Jeppesen flight manual gathered dust on my bookshelf.

MY break lasted 16 years.

If you look at my logbook, you’ll see two entries right next to each other. They’re only centimeters apart, but the time they span is breathtaking: one reads Feb. 20, 1999. The next reads June 13, 2015.

I can’t really point to one single thing that brought me back to flying. I guess it started during a 6 a.m. Thursday morning men’s Bible study group at Southeast Christian Church. One week I was asked to summarize my life – from birth until the present day – and flying came up.  The guys at my table asked if I was still doing it. I wasn’t.

Then I read “Jungle Pilot” by Nathaniel Hitt, about the life of missionary pilot Nate Saint. I started volunteering for Mission Aviation Fellowship – an evangelical Christian organization that sends general aviation pilots to serve unreached people in isolated regions. I became friends with some of our missionary pilots – and helped some of them move overseas. I even got the opportunity to visit some of them out in the field.

Ultimately I realized that maybe the experts were wrong. Maybe I didn’t have to go once a week. Maybe I could just go once a month. Maybe once every six weeks. Even if I never got my license, at least I would be in an airplane again. At least I would be flying.

Do you want to fly?

Do you have cable TV? Take my advice:  cancel it.

That’s one flight lesson. One flight lesson a month right there!

The experts are wrong. Don’t do what I did and take 16 years off, thinking flying is out of your reach. If you love flying, and you can only afford to go once a month, then just go once a month. Or once every six months. Or once a year.

Here is a link with Flight Schools and Recurrent Training facilities all around the world, tell the experts to take a hike.

Yes, I know you won’t progress very far toward getting your certificate on a once-a-month regimen. Yes, I know students who go more frequently will get their PPL much faster. And yes, I know every expert says you’re wasting your time. But at least you won’t be giving up entirely.

And it’s not wasting your time if you simply love flying.

Travis PIC

As I write this, I’m looking at my shiny blue private pilot certificate. I passed my check ride – at Sporty’s no less! – on Sept. 1, 2018. Ultimately, I did have to increase the frequency of my flight lessons, but that wasn’t always an option. I’m glad I hung in there, even during the dry spells.

I’m working on my Instrument Rating now. My goal is to eventually get my commercial ticket, and my CFI. Then my flying will finance itself.

Maybe I’ll get there and maybe I won’t. What I do know is I hope to keep flying a part of my life some way – even if it’s only volunteering or reading a book about it – for many years to come.

Sixteen years is far too long.

TRAVIS K. KIRCHER is a private pilot – as well as a lifetime student – based in Louisville, Kentucky. His home airport is Bowman Field (KLOU). He is always ready and willing to tell you about Mission Aviation Fellowship – and you can find out more about it by visiting www.MAF.org

 

 

 

The Regulated Airport

As most of my readers will know, regulatory compliance is a HUGE deal in the aviation industry. This becomes apparent as soon as flight training begins. Someone outside of aviation may imagine that learning to fly is just learning which buttons to push and levers to pull to operate an aircraft, but the reality is that a large chunk of pilot training involves learning regulations and how to comply with them. The same goes for airports. A phrase that is thrown around a lot in Airport Operations curriculum is “The Regulated Airport.” Truly, an airport is under constant scrutiny and oversight by several different regulatory agencies.

When faced with a problem in aviation you must always ask yourself, “is there a regulation that applies to this?” Next, you think “where can I find this regulation?” Finally, “Does this comply with the regulation? If not, how can I fix it?” Since moving from the flight side to the airport side, it has always been surprising to me the variety of regulatory agencies that could be involved at any one time for any one problem.

Today I would like to provide an overview of some of the major regulations that airports must comply with, as both an exercise for myself and hopefully an interesting read for those outside of the aviation industry. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but will look at some of the regulations that come up most frequently.

Regulated Airport

Part 139
For the day to day operations of an airport with commercial service, the Federal Aviation Administration’s 14 CFR Part 139 is the governing regulation. This includes instruction on employee training, record keeping, wildlife management, airfield inspections, Airport Emergency Plans, and hundreds of other topics relating to airport operations. The most interesting thing about Part 139 is that an airport looking to earn certification writes their own Airport Certification Manual (ACM) outlining how they will comply with the different sections of Part 139, and it is signed and approved by an FAA inspector. The airport's ACM then becomes the regulatory document. 

Part 1542
The Department of Homeland Security has issued Transport Security Regulations (TSRs) that require airports to maintain certain security measures. This includes background checks on individuals that have access to secure areas, badging and access control, and a variety of other regulations regarding the security of airport property. One of the major security regulations that airports with commercial service must comply with is Title 49 CFR Part 1542. Similar to Part 139 and the ACM, airports write their own Airport Security Plan (ASP) which is then approved and becomes their unique regulating document. 

Grant Assurances
Any airport that accepts federal funding for a project is subject to the Grant Assurances for up to 20 years, depending on the lifetime of the project. These sets of regulations can also apply to a General Aviation airport that does not have to comply with Part 139, if they accept money from the Federal Government. Grant Assurances are obligations for the airport to keep itself in the best possible condition and properly operated. There are a total of 39 Grant Assurances, and they cover topics such as Economic Nondiscrimination, Compatible Land Use, and Planning Projects. 

Environmental Regulations
There are several environmental regulations that airports must comply with, both with the FAA and the EPA. The environmental issues that the FAA governs mostly relate to Airport Noise. For example, 14 CFR Part 150 “Airport Noise Compatibility Planning” and 14 CFR Part 161 “Airport Noise and Access Restrictions.” Airplane Noise has been a hot topic since well before the Jet Age, and the FAA has precise rules for how airports plan for and handle it. 

Airports also handle a variety of hazardous and toxic materials, so it is vital that proper quarantine and drainage protocols are in place to protect the local water supply. Many airports work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify and avoid possible water pollution. 

Financial Regulations
Airports are subject to a variety of financial regulations, determining what they charge and how they use their funds. This is especially important when they accept Federal funding, and should be taken very seriously. 

Self-Implemented Regulations
In addition to all of the external regulations that airports must comply with, airports make their own internal rules as well. These rules are called Minimum Standards, and are required under Grant Assurance 19, Operations and Maintenance. Minimum Standards are used so that the relationship and expectations between the airport operator and airport users are clear and understood. 

This concludes my overview of some of the regulations that commercial airports must be aware of and comply with in their daily operations. Hopefully you learned something or had a nice refresher. Let me know in the comments below if you've had experience with any of these! 

Looking for Airport and FBO information?  Try Globalair.com's Airport Resource Center (ARC).  Packed with all the United States Airports Aeronautical information from the FAA and updated ever 56 days and over 3,200 FBO's and fuel prices.

 

 

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