The difference between a private and commercial pilot's license hinges on this critical ability to expressly receive pay for flying; a PPL is allowed to fly "in furtherance of a business" but cannot be paid to fly a plane, while a CPL can. That brings up an important question; in today's corporate world, there often isn't a strict "hours for pay" exchange; you get a salary, for which you perform the duties of the job (which do not necessarily mean being there 8 hours a day). So, what's the difference between being paid while flying in furtherance of a business, and being paid for flying?
A simple example (I hope): I'm a salary man, and my workplace happens to abut a public air park in Dallas. A coworker of mine needs to get to Waco to have a short face-to-face meeting with a client (teleconferencing won't do), and my boss knows I'm a PPL and own a fairly speedy Cherokee 235 (cruising speed 135 mph). The forecast for tomorrow is perfect flying weather, so he proposes this deal; I commute to work in my plane tomorrow instead of driving. After morning coffee and e-mails, my coworker and I will head over to the air park and fly out from there to Waco in my plane and be picked up by the client. We'll have the meeting, be driven back to the airfield, and I'll fly us back to Dallas so he can drive home.
For this, I'll get paid for the workday as I normally would, no vacation or other leave time required to be used. My boss also suggests that I can expense my fuel costs and any landing fees, like I would be able to do with my gas and parking fees if I drove. My boss gets two people face-to-face with the client faster than if we drove, with less time off our normal duties than if we flew on a regional jet (and much cheaper), and I get paid to fly my plane without being explicitly hired to do so.
- Can I accept the deal at all, or will the fact that I'm technically being paid while flying be considered the same as being paid for flying even though no additional money specifically for my yoke time is changing hands?
- What portion of my out-of-pocket costs can legally be expensed?
- All my fuel and landing fees incurred between taking off from and landing back at my home field (which I otherwise would not have incurred)?
- 100% of costs from when I take off at the air park near work to when I return there (the portion of the flight in furtherance of the business)?
- 50% of "non-commuter" flight costs (gas to and from Waco and the landing fee there, but not the fees at the air park or gas to and from my home field)?
- No expenses allowed (because that would be "compensation for flying")?
- Would any of this change if I were an hourly employee doing this "on the clock" as opposed to being salaried?
- Would any of the above answers change if my boss wanted me to rent a speedier plane (that I was rated for of course)? Would I be able to expense some or all of the rental?
- I'll try not to make this an off-topic "legal advice" question: if I refused the deal because I thought it would violate the restrictions of my PPL on flying for pay, and I was summarily fired, should I be talking to a lawyer about a wrongful termination suit?