Plan could ease charitable flight reimbursement rules

February 26, 2013

An alliance of organizations whose members fly charitable medical transport missions in their personal aircraft plans to present the FAA with proposals to ease terms under which private pilots may be reimbursed for flight expenses.

The Air Care Alliance, which serves the interests of organizations engaged in public benefit flying, informed its members Feb. 25 that it planned to brief FAA officials on proposals “to reduce the burden on pilots and groups that choose to reimburse for fuel.”

Several volunteer pilot organizations have been granted exemption from 14 CFR 61.113(c), which states that, for any flight carrying passengers, a private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses (fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees).

Language clarifying requirements for an aircraft owner or operator to accept reimbursement was inserted in the 2012 FAA reauthorization bill. A notice to describe the FAA’s policy for volunteer pilots operating charitable medical flights was published in the Feb. 22 edition of the Federal Register.

After the notice was published, the Air Care Alliance, in an online bulletin, announced its plans to brief the FAA on “specific proposals” to ease the restrictions and limitations that accompany the waivers, and noted “significant progress” in two years of discussions with the FAA. (Some of the 10 restrictions require the volunteer pilot organizations to develop a pilot qualification and training program; set minimum pilot qualifications; require a second class medical certificate; and require pilots to file an IFR flight plan for each flight and observe higher IFR minimums.)

The FAA remains “open to hear proposals reducing these requirements and to open, honest discussions about how to provide a higher level of safety in instances where pilots receive reimbursement,” it said.

Although the notice does not introduce any new policy, AOPA welcomed the apparent movement toward making charitable medical transport more efficient.

“We are encouraged to see the FAA recognize the value in general aviation and charitable flights and will continue to support the Air Care Alliance and other nonprofits engaged in that activity,” said David Oord, AOPA manager of regulatory affairs. “We are hopeful that the application process to obtain those exemptions will become less burdensome and onerous for applicants.”

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.