Can a pilot with their commercial certificate look for their own customers, rent an airplane, and get paid to do introductory flights?

If yes, where in the FARs does it talk about it?

  • $\begingroup$ The problem is probably going to be the "rent an airplane" part, and as you describe it, I highly doubt it. Typically "introductory flights" are done by a CFI at a flight school for some discounted rate which is basically a half-hour to an hour of flying and a half-hour of ground (and the customer sits in the right seat), what you are talking about sounds like giving a lesson being a non-CFI, which again, I doubt the FAA would look kindly on. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly do you mean by an "introductory flight"? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Dec 21, 2016 at 21:59

2 Answers 2


There are three parts to your question and the answer to all three is no. And there isn’t one specific place in the FARs that says you can’t do this, but reading Parts 91 and 135 along with appropriate ACs and Legal Opinions of the FAA leads most pilots to realize that they can’t do this. §91.147 Passenger carrying flights for compensation or hire. contains a list of requirements that you must satisfy as well.

If you look for customers it is considered 'holding out' and according to AC 120-12A ‘A carrier becomes a common carrier when it "holds itself out" to the public, or to a segment of the public, as willing to furnish transportation within the limits of its facilities to any person who wants it.’ And if you are a common carrier, then for this type of operation, you must have a Part 135 certificate.

As a commercial pilot, you can be paid to fly someone in their airplane. Lots of commercial pilots do this. However, if you provide the plane then you are acting as a Part 135 operation and you can’t do it.

Getting paid is also not allowed. Since you can‘t do parts one and two of your question, you are acting under your Private Pilot certificate for the flight. At most, you can split the immediate expenses i.e. fuel, landing fees, etc. Even that is a bit dicey since you won’t have a ‘common purpose’ with the person you are flying. In other words, without holding out for customers, you wouldn’t have been making the flight anyway.

Not part of the question, but there are lots of things you can do with a commercial pilot’s license:

Corporate Pilot, Charter Pilot, Contract Pilot (for a private owner), Freight/Cargo Pilot, Ferry Pilot, Banner towing Pilot, Sight-Seeing/Tour Pilot, Agricultural Pilot/Crop Duster, Skydiver Pilot, Photographer Pilot, Airshow Pilot, Demo Pilot (aircraft sales), Medical Evacuation Pilot, Humanitarian/Charity Pilot, News/Traffic Pilot, Pipeline Patrol Pilot, National Defense or Border Patrol Pilot, Firefighting or Forestry Pilot.

  • $\begingroup$ You might want to mention part 119 too: it defines when you need a 135/121 operating certificate and when you don't. It also lists the activities that are exempt from 135/121, i.e. the things you can do with only a part 61 commercial certificate. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Dec 22, 2016 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer, but... Where in the CFRs does it specify that if a commercial pilot provides the aircraft he/she needs a pert 135 operating certificate? My understanding is that private carriage for compensation in a personal aircraft is permitted. Regarding splitting the costs as a private pilot: Here I don't think the CFRs specify how a private pilot is allowed to find passengers interested in sharing costs. There is a clear distinction for commercial pilots, but no "holding out" verbiage limiting PPLs from making new friends. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2019 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall Where in the Part 91 or Part 61 does it say you are allowed to carry passengers for hire? Other for flying for charity compensation isn’t mentioned. It does say you may share expenses on pro rata basis. So you need to dig into Part 135/121/119 and Legal Interpretations and Certificate Actions to find out the regulations. tldr; Carrying passengers for compensation in your own aircraft (even with a commercial certificate) is strictly forbidden unless you are Part 135. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Mar 6, 2019 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry, CFR 61.133(a)(1) "A person who holds a commercial pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft - (i) Carrying persons or property for compensation or hire, provided the person is qualified in accordance with this part and with the applicable parts of this chapter that apply to the operation; and (ii) For compensation or hire, provided the person is qualified in accordance with this part and with the applicable parts of this chapter that apply to the operation." $\endgroup$ Mar 6, 2019 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Please show me where it says a commercial pilot is limited to sharing expenses on a pro-rata basis, and where it specifically prohibits exercising commercial privileges (private carriage!) in a personally owned aircraft. $\endgroup$ Mar 6, 2019 at 1:21

Depends. If the commercial pilot in question is not a Certified Flight Instructor, he/she cannot sign off on dual instruction time for a student pilot and said student pilot cannot log that flight time in their logbook. - see FAR 61.181-189.

Now if a commercial pilot appropriately rated for the category and class of aircraft, or with a type rating, with a current Class I or Class II Medical certificate takes a passenger up for compensation or hire on an introductory flight, they may do so. But it cannot count for instruction time.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I don't think this is accurate because not only does the pilot need to be rated for the type of aircraft, but the aircraft may need to be maintained to Part 135, Part 91, etc, depending on the operation involved. See this question which means you possibly also need to be operating under an operators certificate as well... Just having a commercial doesn't mean you can charge for your time. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Dec 21, 2016 at 22:23

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