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Does 14 CFR 61.113(c) allow a passenger to pay for rental equipment for themselves (e.g. headset or parachute) in addition to their share of the operating expenses, or is that considered compensation?

e.g.

  • Occupants = 2
  • Hobbs cost = \$100
  • Headset rental for passenger = \$10

Can they pay either:

  • \$50 (Only allowed to split Hobbs costs)
  • \$55 (Allowed to include the headset in the total cost - i.e. included as 61.113 (c) rental fees)
  • \$60 (half the cost of the Hobbs + 100% of the headset)
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Incidental costs specific to the passenger, such as O2 for the passenger's medical condition, may be paid by the passenger and need not be factored into the cost of the flight for flight sharing costs.

In your example, the Hobbs charge for the aircraft is the flight cost. If the passenger wants a headset, or anything else that is not a flight expense, the cost need not be shared.

Landing fees, navigation fees and the like are grey areas, and I would split those. But something like a tie-down or hangar fee is not a flight expense, and the passenger may pay for in full.

If you read cases where the FAA has prosecuted pilots for conducting operations "for hire" or similar, they tend to be egregious.

So in your example, $60 would be the right answer. I would suggest that you could even split the cost of the charts you might buy for the trip.

As a final word, I would make certain that your passenger understands that you are just sharing expenses, not that they are "paying for a ride."

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a reference for this? $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 8 '17 at 15:49
  • $\begingroup$ What specific part of this? I have a fat folder on this stuff because in 40 years of running a flying club it has come up numerous times, and we have had numerous speakers on the topic. $\endgroup$ – mongo May 8 '17 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ The specific part which the question asked about (incidental costs specific to the passenger). Do you have a regulatory reference or an LOI which clearly states that the FAA allows these costs to be passed on to the passenger and not shared like the rest of the costs? (Note that I'm not disagreeing with you, but rather than just "believing you because you said so" it would be good to have an actual reference to back up what you say.) $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 8 '17 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ I will answer this issue with an additional answer to the question. $\endgroup$ – mongo May 9 '17 at 5:08
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It has been asked by @Lnafziger for authority supporting an answer I have given to the question. Since this answer is not what I would call a succinct answer, I have made it separate from my initial answer.

14 CFR 61.113(c) A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.

The regulation by context refers to operating expenses of a flight. The OP asks about a passenger headset rental. The regulation addresses expenses of flight.

Consider if the headset was bought by the pilot and transferred to the passenger friend, with the passenger friend reimbursing the pilot for the cost. Would that be an expense of flight? No, it is not aircraft rental, and furthermore it is not a requirement for flight. So avoid confusing a FBO rental of a headset with a rental of an aircraft.

In the Sommer LOI by FAA Counsel, 61.113(a) is referenced, as prohibiting the "compensation or hire". If our friend were to be given the purchased headset at the completion of the flight, that would be compensation or hire. In the LOI the FAA makes clear their long standing position that compensation or hire can include any benefit or consideration, even if there is no payment. But in the OP example, the headset was merely rented, and solely for the benefit of the passenger, and was not needed for flight as it was for personal comfort or hearing protection. Most importantly, there is no benefit to the pilot.

In the same LOI, the FAA touches upon expenses of flight not covered by 61.113(c), and while they are not enumerated, nor are examples given, the FAA makes clear that 61.113(c) applies specifically to the expenses enumerated in 61.113(c).

Sommer LOI: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/pol_adjudication/agc200/interpretations/data/interps/2010/sommer%20-%20%282010%29%20legal%20interpretation.pdf

In 1997 the FAA, in Harrington, made a stance that they would interpret compensation and hire broadly. In subsequent interpretations and enforcement actions, compensation and hire were liberally construed. In the instant case presented by the OP, even liberally construed, the rental of a headset provides no compensation to the pilot, is not necessary under regulations for the flight, and is not a fuel, oil, airport or [aircraft] rental fee.

[There are other LOI which more specifically address scenarios virtually identical to the OP's question, however, those LOIs were not found online. Sommer is more current, and touches upon the key points which need to be considered.]

As a final note, it is important when reading regulations to interpret just the regulation within the context of the body of regulation. Stated differently, avoid reading into one's interpretation issues which are separate and distinct from the body of regulation. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that while FAA LOIs are not regulatory they provide insight as to how the FAA might deal with a matter, or might be persuaded to deal with a matter. (Having said that, I know of cases where they appear to attempt to enforce regulations which are not codified. Yes, the pilot can appeal to the NTSB, but a friend faced with that gave up when the FAA said at the end of highly politicized first day of the hearing that they estimated 23 days of material. His attorney advised him he had just spent $13k on the first day, and he decided to fold. An adversary is powerful armed with deep pockets.)

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very good answer, thumbs up! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger May 9 '17 at 16:08

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