All posts tagged 'private pilot'

The Aviation Spark

Nicole Lund

 

My sister, Lauren, in the pink and me in the blue.

 

The question I am asked most often is "how did you get involved in aviation?". Most student pilots have parents or relatives that are pilots who helped them get a foot in the door. However, I do not come from a family with a background in aviation. So, where did the spark to become a pilot come from?

The first time I flew on an airplane, I was four years old and on my way to the happiest place in the world, Walt Disney World. I remember boarding the plane and the captain giving me a pair of plastic pilot wings that I wore with a giant grin across my face. I was completely blown away by seeing the world from 35,000 feet. Growing up, my mom took me to a local airshow at Offutt Air Force Base. This sparked an interest in serving the country. There was a C-17 at the first Defenders of Freedom Air & Space Show that I went to. I could not fathom how a plane of that size could fly. I ended up touring the inside of the C-17 and that was when I realized that I wanted to be a pilot.

 
A photo I took of a C-17 from Travis AFB on an overnight at KOMA.
 
 

I felt embarrassed and ashamed for wanting to become a pilot. I had never met a female pilot. I did not start telling family and friends that this is what I wanted to do with my life until high school. I tried easing my family into the idea by mentioning how I wanted to join the Air Force. Then I slowly started bringing up the idea of wanting to fly. Needless to say, my family and friends thought it was just a phase. In high school, I was a 4.0 student as well as a varsity athlete in cross country, track and field, and trapshooting. I focused on my grades and extracurricular activities so that I would be competitive for an Air Force ROTC scholarship. My senior year of high school I was overjoyed by the news of receiving a Commander's Scholarship for the local detachment at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). It was a full ride scholarship to study Aviation, I had my life planned out, so I thought.

My freshman year at UNO I juggled being a cadet and studying Aviation Management. At the end of my freshman year, I was crushed by the news that I had been medically disqualified from military service. That was a hard pill to swallow, but I knew I still wanted to fly. I ended up passing my first-class FAA medical and then began my private pilot training. I am now finishing up my commercial certificate with my eyes on a career in business aviation or with an airline.

Standing in front of a Citation Excel.

 

D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Grounds Flytenow & AirPooler Private Pilot Flight-Sharing Concept

As you may know, one of the ways a private pilot is permitted to reduce the cost of a particular flight is to share that expense with the passenger(s) on the flight. The applicable regulation, 14 CFR 61.113(a), provides that "no person who holds a private pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire; nor may that person, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft." However, Paragraph (c) of the regulation states "[a] private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees." This creates an exception to the prohibition on private pilots receiving compensation for flying.

Using this exception, and presumably with the Uber and Airbnb ride sharing concepts in mind, two companies, Flytenow and AirPooler, created websites that would allow a private pilot to offer his or her planned flight to potential passengers who would be willing to share the expenses of the flight under Section 61.113(c). However, before the concepts really took flight, both AirPooler and Flytenow requested legal interpretations from the FAA regarding whether their business concept was in compliance with federal aviation regulations. The FAA responded to both requests with a resounding “no.”

The FAA concluded that a private pilot using a web-based service to offer flights to potential passengers would be holding himself or herself out as a common carrier to transport persons from place to place for compensation. The regulations prohibit that type of operation by a private pilot. Rather, under the proposed scenario the FAA stated that the pilot would need to have both a commercial pilot certificate and also an air carrier certificate. The FAA’s decision relied upon the FAA’s previous interpretations of the terms “compensation” and “holding out” as they are used in the regulations.

Flytenow disagreed with the FAA’s interpretations and its application of both the definitions of “compensation” and “holding out” as they applied to its business model. It then filed a petition asking the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside the FAA’s legal interpretations. In a not-so-surprising decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Flytenow, Inc. v. Federal Aviation Administration rejected Flytenow’s petition in its entirety and confirmed the FAA’s interpretations.

First, the court confirmed that a private pilot’s receipt of any reimbursement of expenses is compensation. Thus, given the FAA’s broad view of “compensation,” a private pilot’s receipt of a pro-rata share of a flight’s expenses from passengers would be compensation, albeit permitted compensation under Section 61.113(c).

Next, the court had no trouble determining that private pilots using the Flytenow website to offer flights would be “holding out” as the FAA interpreted that term. The court observed that any potential passenger could arrange for a flight by simply using Flytenow’s website. And although use of the website was limited to members, in order to become a member a potential passenger merely needed to sign up. Further, the court did not think that a member pilot’s authority to decide not to accept particular passengers limited the “holding out” by that pilot. Thus, the court agreed with the FAA’s position that a private pilot’s sharing of flight expenses with passengers obtained through the Flytenow website would be contrary to the regulations.

However, the court went on to note that “pilots communicating to defined and limited groups remain free to invite passengers for common purpose expense-sharing flights.” It confirmed a previous opinion by the FAA that a private pilot’s posting of a flight on a bulletin board may be permitted in certain circumstances. The court also stated that “[o]ther kinds of internet-based communications, such as e-mail among friends, for example, seem unlikely to be deemed ‘holding out’ under the FAA’s Interpretation.” Finally, perhaps in fear that its decision would be misinterpreted, the court concluded by stating “[p]rivate pilots continue to enjoy the right to share expenses with their passengers, so long as they share a common purpose and do not hold themselves out as offering services to the public.”

So, what does this mean? Well, for starters, it means that offering flights through a broadly based flight-sharing system or website open to anyone (e.g. John Q. Public) is likely going to be interpreted as “holding out.” However, the court’s language does suggest that making flight-sharing available to a more limited or defined pool of potential passengers may not be considered “holding out.”

Unfortunately, the court did not provide any further guidance on where the “holding out” threshold would be crossed. Somewhere between “communications between friends” and “communications to the public at large” is neither specific, nor is it helpful. Finding the sweet-spot where the pool of potential passengers is large enough to justify the business model for flight-sharing, yet still small enough that it is not “holding out,” may be difficult. But for those who may want to pursue or revisit this type of flight-sharing arrangement, it is better than a complete ban.

Citation X Captain Pilots For World-Renowned Fractional Operator

   On warm and sunny days here in Louisville, Kentucky, I have made a habit of going out to the field that lies due south of my father’s house. There in the field I feel at home; I lie down in the cool, soft grass, look up at the endless sky as I ponder my life. High above this planet where the vapor turns to gas, there is no such thing as hurt, there is no such thing as pain; there is no war and there is no evil. Up there, life is peaceful, beautiful and every shade of blue. It fascinates me to imagine how simple life could be; all we have to do is take the time to stop and see the world around us. Life has a funny way of twisting and turning in every direction except the one we are expecting; and once we lose our way, we are apt to miss out on something really great. There are always going to be reasons why we never did those things we wanted most, but that is so silly. Live your life, do everything you ever dreamed of doing and don’t look back.

   This time, my story is about a boy who knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a pilot. So much so that he would lie awake at night, letting his imagination carry him away as he slipped into fantasies of flight. The year was 1970, young Jeffrey Newcomb was twelve years of age and constantly on the lookout for anything aviation. Jeff would spend days with his nose in a flying magazine, any that he could find. Specifically, Jeff he recalls reading Air Progress, Private Pilot, Plane and Pilot and Flying. Jeff wasn’t quite sure why this dream had found him, be it spiritual or for the simplicity of freedom; but he supposed it didn’t matter anyway. What mattered was that he knew he was going to be a pilot someday. Unfortunately, bad news was lurking in the shadows for your young Jeff. One night over a family dinner, Jeffrey attempted to first express his passion for aviation to his parents. Needless to say, times were different then and aviation was less than safe according to Jeff’s mother and father. Jeff’s father had served time in the NAVY and although he had not piloted himself, he had a horrible fear of flight and refused to see his son put himself in such “danger.” On top of that, it has been said that the 70s and early 80s were NOT the best time to become a career pilot simply due to the large number of military pilots coming out of the Vietnam war. Ultimately, Jeff’s father had different ideas for his son and promptly began pushing him towards a career in business, sales and marketing.

   When the time came for Jeff to go away for college, he headed off to the University of New Hampshire in order to complete his undergrad degree. In 1979 Jeff graduated from UNH with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration as his father had suggested. Jeff continued forward with in his education and almost immediately ventured off to Antioch New England Graduate School located in Keene, New Hampshire, where he received his master’s degree in counseling Psychology. Still unsure as to what profession he may finally end up pursuing, Jeff went off to George Mason University located in Fairfax, Virginia where he completed a second master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.

   In 1987, Jeff went to work part time with an old country medical doctor out of a private office. For the next five years the medical doctor and Jeff worked together helping each other, help others. Once a week, Jeff would take over this medical office in order to meet with his clients for their routine therapy sessions. Jeffery enjoyed helping people in any way that he could, yet, he began to notice a pattern in his work. Although Jeff met with many different types of patients over the years, he found that he primarily spoke with married couples in couple’s type therapy. Some rekindled their love while others ended harshly in divorce and misfortune. Although these relationships and occurrences all took vital importance in Jeff’s life, none affected him quite as much as the divorce of his own parents. In 1992 Jeff’s parents filed for a divorce and just like that Jeff’s life had changed. He no longer desired a career in psychology; Jeff was ready to do just exactly what his parents had always advised him not to do. Needless to say, in January of 1993, when Jeff was thirty-five years old he began taking flight lessons. Again, people in Jeff’s life discouraged him from aviation. They told him that he was too old, the lessons would cost too much money, he would never be able to make a career out of flying without military background, etc.

Jeff wasn’t listening.

   Luckily, Jeffrey had friends in the business. His old pal Lee and colleague Greg owned and ran a small FBO named Sky Bright out of Laconia, New Hampshire. There in Laconia, Jeffrey Newcomb learned to fly despite every negative thing anyone had ever told him. It took Jeff roughly one year to complete all necessary pilot training and in 1993, he became certified to instruct and began teaching student pilots at Sky Bright. At this point in Jeffrey’s career he needed to begin building his time in multi-engine aircraft so that he could begin a new job as a charter pilot and work his way up in business. Some twenty thousand dollars later, Jeff was successfully checked out to fly the Beechcraft Baron as well as the Cessna 310 and in no time at all he was began his new career as a charter pilot flying the Baron for Sky Bright.

   In the spring of 1995, Jeff jumped on board a new flying opportunity and was off to Orlando, Florida in order to pursue an offer to fly for Comair Airlines. At Comair, Jeffrey flew as first officer for several years before he was transitioned north to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became the captain on the Brasilia for one year. During these five years Jeff also flew the Canadair Regional Jet as well as the Metroliner. Newcomb absolutely loved this job and intended to stay…until a massive strike broke out in 2001. Just in the nick of time one of the largest international, fractional operator/time shares opened their door in search of a captain to fly their Cessna Citation X aircraft. Jeffrey Newcomb calls it “a spiritual thing” that he was lucky enough to be granted with such an incredible opportunity. In no time at all the cards played out and he was dealt a fantastic hand. Suddenly Jeffrey was on board and working his dream career with only 4500 hours of flight time.

   Today, twelve years later, Jeffrey has 4600+ hours in the Citation X aircraft, he has maintained his career with the same time share company and he says he could not be more thrilled! Jeffery will tell anyone he meets that he absolutely loves serving people; he enjoys making things happen and in turn, seeing people smile. “Airline flying was easy compared to private! However, flying corporate and fractional are so much more rewarding because you (as their pilot)get the opportunity to actually work one on one with your guests” Jeffrey states. “The greatest satisfaction is providing service directly to the people that you fly.” Also, Jeff thoroughly enjoys the variety of his trips. During an average week, Jeff typically flies to several different places. On any given day he may be flying a family to fabulous Bermuda for vacation, then turn around and spend the night in Aspen, Colorado that very same evening. With his current company, Jeff has also become very accustom to transcontinental flights where he may begin a trip in Teterboro, New Jersey, have dinner off the coast of southern California and be prepared for takeoff to Lakeland, Florida first thing the very next morning!

   The moral of this story is to not ever give up trying, on the things you want most out of life. Thirteen year old Jeffrey Newcomb sat at his family’s dinner table and thought very sincerely that all was lost. He thought his dreams of one day becoming a pilot were no more and he certainly would be sentenced to live a life on the ground. I’m here today folks, to tell you the good news of Jeff’s very real success story. On this very day, Jeff is a pilot working for a very successful company and living a very successful life. Against all odds, Jeffrey Newcomb did it. Currently, Jeff is living back home in small town New Hampshire with his adoring wife, Adriana and any spare time that he finds, he designates to students pilots. Jeff is excited to be back and instructing at Sky Bight, where he taught twenty years ago. Flying still excites Jeff to the nth degree. He feels excited to push the starter button on the engine of his Citation X and he still gets butterflies as he prepares for takeoff. Jeff enjoys watching the sun rise above the clouds and he states that he has the best office in the whole world; seeing the stars at night and ground below thrills him now more than ever and he wouldn’t trade for a thing.

Jim and Matt

Note from the Author: Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and read my article! I cannot even begin to describe how much I’ve learned in just a few short months since I started with this series. You are all such inspiring aviators and pilots, so thanks for reaching out to me with your comments and emails. I hope you enjoyed this article, and keep up the awesome thoughts, comments and on-blog conversations! -As always, please feel free to message me directly with your thoughts at - keely@globalair.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Can A Private Pilot Advertise On Facebook For Expense-Sharing Passengers?


This was one of the questions addressed in an October 3, 2011 Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA's Office of Chief Counsel. The individual requesting the interpretation posed the questions in the context of a proposed trip to a wedding in which the pilot would receive a pro-rata share operating expense reimbursement from additional passengers pursuant to FAR 61.113(c). The questions presented were:

  1. Whether the pilot may advertise, on Facebook, the specific time and date that he was traveling in order to carry two additional passengers with him in exchange for a pro-rata reimbursement of the operating expenses;

  2. If he receives a response to his Facebook post from two friends that expressed an interest in traveling with him in order to attend a baseball game whether he and his passengers share a "common purpose"?

  3. Whether he may post the same information on a fixed based operator's (FBO) bulletin board instead of on Facebook; and

  4. Whether he could receive the pro-rata expenses through Paypal since Paypal extracts a 3% commission from any fees paid through their service.

The Interpretation initially noted that FAR 6l.113(c) "allows a private pilot to receive a pro-rata reimbursement from his passengers for fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees, so long as the pilot and his passengers share a bona fide common purpose for conducting the flight." It went on to discuss "common carriage," which is not allowed without a FAR Part 119 commercial operating certificate. If an operator is "holding out" to the public or a segment of the public, that "is the 'crucial determination' in deciding if one has engaged in common carriage or not." According to the Interpretation, holding out is accomplished through any "'means which communicates to the public that a transportation service is indiscriminately available' to the members of that segment of the public it is designed to attract." This can be done through signs, advertising or even where an operator has a reputation to serve all.

With respect to advertising the specific time and date of his trip on Facebook to his "friends/family/acquaintances," the Interpretation stated that would be acceptable as a private pilot, since he would not be holding out to "the general public." However, since the pilot didn't provide any additional details about the nature of the Facebook post or how large his Facebook audience was, the FAA cautioned that Facebook advertising could still be construed as holding out. For example, if the pilot advertised to a class such as all Facebook users, that could still be considered holding out if the advertising was expressing a willingness to provide transportation for all within that class.

Regarding the "common purpose," the Interpretation noted that "[t]he existence of a bona fide common purpose is determined on a case-by-case basis." It then concluded that based on the facts presented by the pilot, it appeared to be a bona fide common purpose, since the destination was dictated by the pilot, not the passengers, and he and his passengers both had personal business to conduct at the destination. Thus, the purpose of the flight was not just to transport the pilot's passengers to the destination.

Finally, the Interpretation cautioned that putting the Facebook post on the bulletin board at an FBO could be considered holding out. It also noted that "payment through Paypal would suggest that there is an interest in carrying passengers with whom there is no previous personal relationship and that the offer to accept passengers is being made to the general public," which would suggest that the pilot was "holding out." However, in specific response to the pilot's question, stated that whether or not the passengers reimburse the pilot through an online payment system such as Paypal has no bearing on the legality of the payment so long as the pilot does not pay less than his pro-rata share of expenses.

This Interpretation provides some fact specific insight into determining whether a private pilot may share expenses under FAR 61.113(c). For additional discussion on the topic, please read my article Shared Expenses and the Private Pilot.

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