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.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ 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. $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2014 at 0:22

4 Answers 4


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).

  • $\begingroup$ Great reference with Weybrecht, 2010! $\endgroup$ Apr 23, 2014 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ @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. $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Apr 23, 2014 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.


It is my understanding that the issue isn't whether the pilot receives compensation, or anyone else, such as the owner of the plane or the person selling the hamburger. The issue is that the "passenger is paying something", or giving up something of value, to be in the flight; AND when a passenger is paying for a flight, in the eyes of the FAA, they are due a greater amount of safety guarantee by the FAA. This is why there is now a min flight hours (500) of a private pilot to fly these flights.

We always tend to think of compensation backwards, as from the pilots perspective. And we do that because we, the pilots, want to know if "we" are Ok when we carry passengers. But really the FAA is concerned not so much about us, but for the passengers; and see their (the FAA's) responsibilities toward them, their safety, and their expectations when they have extended value (money, gifts, even good will) for a flight, even if it is just a joy ride or site-seeing trip, or trip to get a hamburger (which is really a trip to go flying of course).

Just imagine a situation, which would likely happen a lot if the FARs allowed, where a freshly minted pilot, with say only 90 hours TT, and all the eagerness in the world to exercise and demonstrate his/her new privilege to everyone who was willing, offered to fly charity flights for his/her church. Now immagine the likely expectations and assumptions of those that "made a donation" to the church (read paid for) to get a flight. These people aren't expected to know anything about aviation, pilot certification, annuals, 100 hr checks, or even what makes a plane fly in the first place. Do you think they are expecting their flight to be piloted by a freshly minted, still scared to stall the plane, pilot?

Looking at it this way makes the FAA's perspective a bit more clear in my mind. We should always feel a lot more responsible when we are carrying passengers, those that are the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones of others. And we should recognize and honor their expectations when they entrust their lives to fly with us. We should also understand that if they are unwitting, and in some sense paying passengers of ours, that maybe don't know us and our skills from that of an axe murder, that they likely have at least the expectation that the FAA has their back.


Many people misread 14 CFR 91.146.

The key is to start with (b) which does NOT impose limitations but rather says essentially that "if a bunch of conditions are met" then certain requirements of parts 119 and 120 do not apply. In other words, IF certain conditions are met then a non-commercial pilot can do the equivalent of 91.147 operations under 91.146.

If, however, those conditions are NOT met, all that "b" means is that the pilot is not relieved from obligations under parts 119 and 120 [generally requiring a commercial pilot's certification and either an LOA for 91.147 or other certification for e.g. part 135 ops].

Depending on whether compensation is provided in a non pro-rata way, the flight may be a private pilot flight as discussed above and subject only to the normal restrictions (common goal amongst all passengers, pro-rata expenses only) or if a commercial pilot is exercising an approved-LOA 91.147 operation.

IF, however, the pilot CHOOSES to meet the extra criteria of b1-b11 and follows (e) then compensation from the charitable event may be received just as it can during 91.147 operations -- and with similar flight restrictions (25sm, nonstop) only with higher pilot qualifications (500hrs) and operational restrictions (FSDO approval and limited number of times a year).

Think of 91.146 as THE ONLY WAY a pilot not holding a commercial certificate can be paid more than the pro-rata share, do the equivalent of a 91.147 flight, but have to have a lot more hours and ops restrictions.


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