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ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (06.24.06): Is It 135?

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.")

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network.

Aero-Tips 06.24.06

Time and again the question arises: what aircraft operations are permissible without being labeled an "aerial transportation" operation subject to FAR 135? As always, the answer is in the regulations -- if you know where to look.

Air Agency Certificate

FAR Part 135 details the pilot experience, training, aircraft equipment and maintenance, and many other requirements for airplanes operated in public conveyance of passengers and/or freight. In the U.S. these operations require an Air Carrier Certificate, an FAA "license" not terribly unlike those for scheduled air lines.

Avoiding the Part 135 Requirement

FAR 91.501 addresses part of the issue. It tells us Part 135 rules do not apply for:

  • Ferry (including passenger- and freightless "deadhead") or training flights
  • Aerial work operations—aerial photography or survey, pipeline patrol (note: aerial fire fighting is not exempt)
  • Demonstration flights if only direct expenses are charged to passengers (see below)
  • Personal or business transportation including passengers for which no transportation fee is charged
  • Flight carrying corporate employees, officials and guests of the company when transportation is incidental to the business of the company (i.e., a business or corporate flight) and no charge of any kind is assessed passengers
  • Flights in fractional or other shared ownership programs when only direct costs (see below) are recovered
Local sightseeing

FAR 135.1 also exempts nonstop sightseeing flights for compensation or hire that begin and end at the same airport, and are conducted within a 25 statute mile radius of that airport. Even these local hops must adhere to certain sections of FAR 135.

Direct expenses

To avoid triggering Part 135 requirements in the personal/business/corporate activities described above, 91.501 tells us the following may be charged, as expenses of a specific flight, for transportation:

  1. Fuel, oil, lubricants, and other additives.
  2. Travel expenses of the crew, including food, lodging, and ground transportation.
  3. Hangar and tie-down costs away from the aircraft's base of operation.
  4. Insurance obtained for the specific flight.
  5. Landing fees, airport taxes, and similar assessments.
  6. Customs, foreign permit, and similar fees directly related to the flight.
  7. In flight food and beverages.
  8. Passenger ground transportation.
  9. Flight planning and weather contract services.
  10. An additional charge equal to 100 percent of the expenses in (1) above.

NOTE: Although the activities described in 91.501 do not require a Part 135 certificate, most still require a commercially certificated pilot and air aircraft maintained to Part 91 commercial standards (i.e., 100-hour inspections).

Outcomes

Fly a "bootleg charter", i.e., an operation requiring an Air Carrier Certificate without proper authorization, and you're setting yourself up for all sorts of Federal enforcement action and legal liability in civil courts. Charge more than the allowable expenses in even a personal airplane and you risk enforcement action and almost certainly void any insurance. In fact, most personal/business use aircraft policies echo the 91.501 list of allowable charges as the definition of what is (and is not) a covered flight operation. Read your policy to be sure.

Aero-tip of the day: Know the rules to avoid overstepping fine lines between personal, commercial and Part 135 operations.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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