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I'm at a loss between regulations §91.146 (Passenger-carrying flights for the benefit of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event.) and §61.113 (Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command.)

§91.146 contains language that allows a private pilot (who meets 500 hour requirement, among other items) to operate as PIC for a charitable event. The language emphasizes that if the event doesn't meet the charity requirement, it is to be considered commercial.

Do these restrictions under §91.146 / §61.113(d) apply if a pilot is willing to PIC under the criteria of §61.113(a) and cover all expenses of the flight?

§61.113 Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command.

(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.


(d) A private pilot may act as pilot in command of a charitable, nonprofit, or community event flight described in §91.146, if the sponsor and pilot comply with the requirements of §91.146.

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It would seem to me that the first of those paragraphs forbids carrying passengers for hire, even if the pilot isn't receiving any payments. The second would seem to be an exception to that, with some restrictions. –  DJClayworth Apr 23 '14 at 0:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Let's look at this from two angles -- first, what's OK under 61.113 (basically "no compensation except the pro-rata sharing of expenses" when acting as a private pilot).

The FAA has an incredibly broad interpretation of "compensation" - The foundational counsel opinion is an interpretation to Joseph A. Kirwan, and if you search counsel opinions for Kirwan you find a bunch of additional opinions referencing it.
Basically Kirwan and the other opinions state that the receipt of anything of value is compensation.
That could include:

  • Money, obviously.
  • Free or discount fuel/oil
  • Free meal
  • Lodging
  • Logging of flight time (if you're not responsible for the operating expenses of the aircraft)
  • The receipt of a benefit (usually money) by the organizer (charity)
    (Weybrecht, 2010 - if they get the ride in exchange for a donation or attendance fee it's 91.146)
  • "Valuable Good Will"
    (Again in Weybrecht from above - so yeah, If you fly your buddy somewhere and they "owe you one" that might be a violation.)

There's really almost nothing you can do under 61.113 except fly somewhere for a hundred-dollar hamburger and split the cost of gas (under the FARs you even have to pay your pro rata share of the burger) - it's very restrictive.

Now let's look at 91.146 - like DJClayworth pointed out what this basically does is carve out a small set of exceptions that allow community groups and charitable organizations which have friendly pilots to offer "airplane rides" in exchange for a donation without being in violation of the FARs (risking the friendly pilot's certificate, and the possible wrath of the FAA on the organizer).

There are lots of restrictions (Like the 500 hour requirement, the requirement that flights be "Nonstop, beginning and ending at the same airport, and within 25 miles of the airport of origin", the limit of reimbursement for the pilot being "pro rata share of expenses", and notification of the local FSDO).

The FAA wants to basically make sure pilots are not flying tons of these charity flights every year to basically build time, and that charities aren't operating de facto air tour companies under the exemptions of 91.146.

So what's the answer to your question?

Basically If the organization is getting donations/admission fees/raffle proceeds, etc. in exchange for these flights the operation falls under 91.146 (because the charity is receiving compensation -- the donation).

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Great reference with Weybrecht, 2010! –  Andy Levesque Apr 23 '14 at 2:42
@AndyLevesque Yeah, that seems to be the most directly applicable to your question. There are others that turned up in the search (link now fixed) that make for interesting reading too. –  voretaq7 Apr 23 '14 at 3:43

This basically boils down to whether or not anybody is receiving compensation, not just the pilot.

If you are just giving people a ride, with no payment to the charity or yourself, then 14 CFR 91.146 wouldn't apply.

On the other hand, if they are paying the charity for the flight, even if you accept no compensation, the flight is for hire and the rules of 91.146 apply.

If there is any question, the FAA will very likely "connect the dots" between a charitable contribution and the ensuing flight, even if the purpose of the donation wasn't explicitly stated as for the aircraft ride. They take a very dim view of trying to bypass the regulations like that.

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