Commercial License Priveleges


New Member
A legal question regarding accepting money for flying without a commercial license...

I am a 225hr Private/Instrument pilot just getting close to finishing my commercial license.

I am an independent consultant in the computer industry and last week my primary client approached me about the possibility of flying him round-trip from Cincinnati to Chicago the next day. He offered to cover the expenses and would allow me to bill the company my normal consulting fee for the day as he considered me to be performing a work related function.

The reason for the trip was that my client was traveling to Europe on business the following day and had just discovered that he had lost his passport. On less than 24 hours notice the only option is to go to an expedited passport office in one of just a few places (i.e. Chicago). Knowing that there is a slim chance that I might also need to travel internationally for business in the near future, I decided I would simply get a passport as well while I was there. This way I was simply flying for convenience while traveling on company business.

I am certainly aware of the fact that without a commercial license I may only accept my pro-rata share of the expenses of the flight. However, I also understand that I can be reimbursed for 100% of my expenses for a work related flight provided that flying is not the business of the company and I am not simply transporting passengers. Therefore, in this situation, I believe I should be able to legally accept 100% reimbursement of my flying expenses and allow the company to pay me for a normal work day. This situation should be identical to that of me flying myself to a convention or business meeting.

I'm interested in others opinion of the legality of this situation. I have not actually been paid or reimbursed yet so technically it was just a pleasure flight at this point.
I ****think**** you'd be ok with the pro-rata (although the compensation-dragon rears it's head so it's a grey area - see below). The 100% reimbursment, however, I don't think you could get away with. If anything the company could only reimburse you for a pro-rata share (in this case I'd imagine it would then be divided by three).

Being paid for your normal work day should be kosher - because the flight is incidential to the primary function of the business - but not a 100% reimbursement of expenses (especially on top of the pro-rata ... if that's what you were thinking).

The regs say "compensation or hire" and the FAA generally defines "compensation" as flight hours - especially if you are pursing higher certificates.

I'll grab the CFRs later today and wade through 'em ... ug
If your normal business takes you to Chicago and you in fact had business there you can share expenses.

Technically you were "Hired" to take him and therefore you conducted a Part 135 charter. It matters not what you get paid.

No big deal as it happens all the time. Very rarely, the FAA will crack down on things like this.

It's a grey area.
First of all John, that is a great picture under your name there; easily one of the funniest skits ever.

I would agree that this is grey area, and you'll probably be better off to accept pro-rata. I would also say that you could collect your consulting fee. I mean, the fact that your boss is going with you matter's little; you need a passport, right? If you happen to be on business that is incidental to the flying, then you should still be able to take the consulting fee. If you're good, you could "take the day off work," split the cost with your boss, and your consulting fee might cover the rest of the plane.


John Herreshoff
I think I may have mistated what I was expecting to be able to get reimbursed for...

Basically, my understanding is that if I were traveling to a business meeting, for example, I should be paid a standard salary for that day and get reimbursed for my travel expenses. So if my company sprung an overseas trip on me for which I needed a passport immediately, I should be able to get reimbursed for my expenses incurred to get one. If the company allows business travel in personal aircraft, I should be entitled to get reimbursed for the expenses of the flight (i.e. rental hours) and still get paid as I am traveling for business purposes. In this case I had a legitimate business need and simply took a passenger along for the same purpose as well.

So I'm really only talking about 2 parts, my salary and the rental. I think what you said initially is correct: Getting paid a normal salary for that day is acceptable since I am on business and simply flying as a convenience. The questionable part is whether I can be reimbursed for 100% of the rental . I believe that if I had been alone I could have accepted 100% as travel expenses, but having taken a passenger then perhaps I can only be reimbursed for my pro-rata share (50%).

Your thoughts?

Wow.. this IS a grey area. I think you need to approach this from the aspect that you were never GAINFULLY compensated for your flying. Read it carefully, as there are holes galore in that.

If your client approached you and said "I will pay 100% of the expenses of flying me here", you are being gainfully compensated, and thus this would not be in the spirit of the regs. He can only legally cover half of the expenses of the trip, and he cannot directly "pay" you for the service of being a pilot. You also may not transport someone somewhere for the purpose of conducting business. Seems like flying your client to the Passport bureau to get his passport isn't DIRECTLY business related, so this shouldn't be an issue. Getting paid your normal consulting fee is okay, so long as you could argue that you would have been paid for that day of work regardless of whether you were going to fly that day or not... Consider it a "sick day". This is an easily defensible position.

So, basically the reg is intended to prevent non-commercial pilots from engaging in flying activities that result in "monetary gain" for either the pilot or the passenger the pilot is flying.

More holes then a fishing net.

Whatever you do make sure it's crystal clear why you were able to accept money for this flight.

It simply isn't worth it any other way

At 225hrs, an average $100/hr = 22500

Make sure there's no WAY someone could make that 22500 worthless for something worth less than 3% of the total.
The big stumbling block is would you have gone to Chicago anyway. If the answer is YES then it is called "incidental travel" and you CAN be reimbursed.

If not, then you are in a grey area.