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