Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Prior to making the decision to take family and friends flying, a new or recently licensed private pilot should carefully review the appropriate FAA Regulations under Sec. 61.113Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command as follows:

  • (a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) through (h) of this section, 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.
  • (b) A private pilot may, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of any aircraft in connection with any business or employment if:
    • (1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and
    • (2) The aircraft does not carry passengers of property for compensation or hire.
  • (c) 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.
  • (d) A private pilot may act as pilot in command of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event flight described in Part 91.146, if the sponsor and pilot comply with the requirements of Part 91.146.
  • (e) A private pilot may be reimbursed for aircraft operating expenses that are directly related to search and location operations, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental feeds, and the operation is sanctioned and under the direction and control of:
    • (1) A local, State, or Federal agency; or
    • (2) An organization that conducts search and location operations.
  • (f) A private pilot who is an aircraft salesman and who has at least 200 hours of logged flight time may demonstrate an aircraft in flight to a prospective buyer.
  • (g) A private pilot who meets the requirements of Part 61.69 may act as a pilot in command of an aircraft towing a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle.
  • (h) A private pilot may act as pilot in command for the purpose of conducting a production flight test in a light-sport aircraft intended for certification in the light-sport category under Part 21.190 of this chapter provided that –
    • (1) The aircraft is a powered parachute or a weight-shift-control aircraft;
    • (2) The person has at least 100 hours of pilot-in-command time in the category and class of aircraft flown; and
    • (3) The person is familiar with the processes and procedures applicable to the conduct of production flight testing, to include operations conducted under a special flight permit and any associated operating limitations.

Once the new private pilot has determined that he or she is in compliance with the FAA regulations in Sec. 61.113, which prohibit remuneration for the services of the new PIC, his or her willingness to carry passengers is typically positively correlated with his or her level of self-confidence in his or her ability to fly the airplane. Although the acquisition of a private pilot’s certificate is often regarded as a prized possession, it is wise to remember that it is essentially a license to [continue to] learn, and as such, it is ranked as the most sought-after of the four levels of the more basic pilot certifications (private, student, recreational, and sport). Pilot certificates can be compared according to the following criteria: instruction flight time, solo flight time, total flight time, average total flight time, average costs, aircraft weight, aircraft seating, aircraft occupancy, aircraft max speed, aircraft range, aircraft engine type, aircraft max horsepower, aircraft number of engines, aircraft propeller types, aircraft landing gear configuration, aircraft max altitude, night flight experience, bad weather flight experience, international flight experience, sightseeing charity flight experience, and airport / airspace experience which reflect the skill level and practical experience of the pilot.

Private pilot and a Cessna aircraft on the runway
Photo by: Juraj Patekar

The private pilot certificate has the fewest limitations, and by earning additional training / endorsements it can be upgraded to include more advanced capabilities, such as flying in IFR weather conditions or flying complex aircraft with two or more engines, retractable landing gear, faster cruise speed, etc. The acquisition of more advanced endorsements through additional flight training can easily result in logging hundreds of hours of flight time which also serves to enhance flying skills and expand the awareness of safety practices. The FAA ensures that flying remains a very safe activity by certifying aircraft to a very high, rigid standard, and requiring that pilots undergo regular refresher training.

An excellent way for new private pilots to save money while they fly, enjoy access to great aircraft while spending time with friends and family is to join a flying club. Flying clubs are conveniently located across the country and open to all levels of piloting skills. A flying club can be described as an aviation co-op uniting a group of people who are interested in sharing the cost of aircraft ownership in an effort to make flying more affordable. Undoubtedly, dividing the acquisition cost of an airplane, the monthly recurring costs, such as hangar fees, annual maintenance, and insurance among several people makes great economic sense, but flying clubs offer a great deal more than just affordable flying. This includes quality flight training opportunities, the access to a variety of aircraft, and the opportunity to construct a sense of community among aviation-minded individuals whether they are just entering the field of aviation or reigniting their passion for flying.

The governance of flying clubs is guided by the FAA’s Minimum Standards 5190.6B which specifically grants them the rights of an individual rather than a commercial operator. This document allows flying clubs the right to form and operate at an airport in the same way that an individual has the right to base his/her airplane on the field. If an airport does not have a published Minimum Standards document, the airport manager is the final authority regarding the types of operations in which the flying club can engage. Generally, flying clubs are governed as follows:

  • Flight club members CAN receive flight training in the flight club aircraft from anyone who is authorized by the airport authority to provide flight instruction on the field.
  • Flight club members who are CFIs CAN provide instruction to other club members in the club aircraft.
  • Flying club members who are mechanics CAN perform maintenance on aircraft that belong to their club.
  • Compensation for member-performed maintenance and flight instruction depends upon approval from the airport manager.
  • Flight clubs CANNOT offer scenic flights, charter service, or any other commercial activity.
  • Flight clubs and their members CANNOT lease or sell any goods or services to anyone other than other members of the club (unless it is the sale or exchange of its capital equipment).
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