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FAA cracks down on illegal chartersFAA cracks down on illegal charters

FAA cracks down on illegal charters
Action could affect some AOPA members

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The FAA is cracking down on illegal charter operations. Now, before you conclude this doesn't apply to you, read a little further. Many AOPA members have unknowingly been involved in what the FAA would consider an illegal charter, and if they catch you, they'll bust you.

"We know of crackdowns in at least two districts, and that's prompted questions from members," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services. "They want to know what the FAA considers an illegal charter."

Ever share expenses for a flight? That's legal under Part 91, correct? Yes, it is, provided expenses are shared equally between everybody in the aircraft, including the pilot.

But what if your buddies say, "Hey, we'll chip in for the gas if you fly us to the beach for seafood?"

You'd better have a Part 135 charter certificate, because you've just become a charter. Why? You're receiving compensation - gas - for providing transportation.

AOPA has an online subject report - Part 91 vs. Part 135 Operations - detailing this and many other "gotchas" that could snare the unsuspecting general aviation pilot.

Let's look at few others.

Here's one that doesn't really make a lot of sense to many pilots, but it's what the regulations say. If you rent an aircraft, you can split the entire rental costs between yourself and passengers. If you own it, you can only split fuel and oil. Sorry.

Many think it's not a charter if a flight instructor is in the right seat and providing "instruction" to the pilot. The FAA takes a pretty dim view of that dodge.

When it comes to enforcement, the FAA is going to look at intent - is the intent of the flight to provide flight training or transportation? And the inspector won't just take your word for it.

Among other things, the inspector will look at where you are in your training, whether the training is ongoing, and whether the aircraft is appropriate to the training.

Say, for example, you're a student pilot training pretty regularly in a Cessna 172, and you're about to start your cross-country work. If you and your instructor just happen to fly to Boston in a Cessna 182 (where you might just also happen to have a business meeting), the FAA would most likely allow that as a Part 91 flight. A cross-country flight is appropriate for you at this point in your training, and so is the Cessna 182.

But if you and your instructor hop into a Navajo for that same trip and call it the beginning of your multiengine training, sorry, that's not going to fly. The FAA would call that a charter, so the aircraft operator better have the appropriate Part 135 certification.

Some flight schools offer trips to exotic locations. Once again, if the person sitting in the left seat is at the appropriate point in training and the aircraft is appropriate to the training, OK.

August 4, 2005

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