Jail time for carrying a passenger?

June 9, 2010

Sport and recreational pilots carrying a passenger in Ohio have been breaking the law for years, according to an outdated statute created in the 1950s. But AOPA worked to have the code amended.

Ohio Code 4561.15 prohibited pilots who did not have a “private pilot or higher” certificate from carrying one or more passengers in the aircraft. Those in violation of the law could have been fined not more than $500, be imprisoned not more than six months, or both.

“It clearly wasn’t being enforced, but nonetheless, it was important to change the law to reflect the evolution of general aviation,” said AOPA Eastern Region Representative Greg Winton.

The code changed June 8, when Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed House Bill 50 into law with an amendment, supported by AOPA, allowing those with a sport or recreational pilot to carry a passenger.

An AOPA member had notified Winton of the outdated law, and he alerted the legislative liaison for the Ohio Department of Public Safety of the issue. Winton worked with State Sen. Jason Wilson, an active pilot, to bring the issue to light before the Ohio General Assembly. Wilson sponsored an amendment to House Bill 50, to update Ohio Code 4561.15.

“In addition to correcting this antiquated law, we used this opportunity not only to educate lawmakers about general aviation but to explain the advent of sport pilot,” said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.

The sport pilot certificate was created in 2004 in conjunction with the new light sport aircraft category. Those exercising the privileges of a sport pilot certificate must fly in an aircraft that weighs less than 1,320 pounds (in addition to other requirements) and can carry only one passenger in day VFR conditions.

Recreational pilots also can only carry one passenger, but they may fly larger aircraft, as long as it has no more than four seats, has less than 180 horsepower (except rotorcraft category), and does not have more than one engine or retractable landing gear. Recreational pilots may not fly at night.