Understanding The “In Furtherance Of A Business” Limitation On Sport Pilot Privileges

An airman holding a sport pilot certificate recently asked me if the airman could fly to a location where the airman anticipated having a business meeting.  However, the airman indicated that he wasn’t necessarily flying to the location because he had to, but he wanted to in order to build time.
Unfortunately, based upon those facts it is likely the FAA would interpret the flight as being in furtherance of the airman’s business.  As a result, the airman would not legally be able to conduct the flight holding only a sport pilot certificate.  Here’s why.
Under 14 C.F.R. §61.315(c)(3) an airman holding a sport pilot certificate may not act as pilot-in-command of a light-sport aircraft “in furtherance of a business.”  The regulation does not explain what it means to fly “in furtherance of a business.”  However, the FAA Office of Chief Counsel has issued several letters of interpretation that provide some clarification.
In the 2011 Gilbert Legal Interpretation, the FAA stated that flight incidental to the airman’s employment or the business the airman intends to conduct, even if the flight is not required by the airman’s business, would be considered “in furtherance of a business.”  As a result, a sport pilot would be prohibited from conducting this type of flight.
The FAA explained further in the 2012 Allen-Terrafugia Legal Interpretation that “[a] flight would therefore be considered to be in furtherance of a business if it were conducted for a business purpose, even if the flight is only incidental to that business purpose.”  The FAA also noted that the sport pilot limitation is more restrictive than the “incidental to business” exception to private pilot limitations under 14 C.F.R. §61.113(b).
So, if you are an airman exercising the privileges of a sport pilot certificate, you are only authorized to conduct sport and recreational flights.  A flight in connection with a business purpose is prohibited under the regulations.