If I am paid to ferry an aircraft from the UK to the US and then leave the aircraft in the US, is it a private or commercial flight?

I am not carrying passengers or cargo, but perhaps the aircraft itself becomes cargo if it is left in the US.

I guess my question follows on somewhat from this below:

What is the difference between a private and a commercial flight according to the US Customs and Border Protection?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Private or commercial according to whom? CAA, HMRC, FAA, CBP, ...? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 14, 2017 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ Are you being paid for it? $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jul 14, 2017 at 16:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer first four words of the question ;) $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jul 14, 2017 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ If you are being paid, in the EU or US at least (I suspect all jurisdictions will be the same), then it's commercial. The only payment you may take as a private pilot is to reimburse direct operational expenses you have paid and providing that you pay at least a pro-rata share of those expenses (i.e. receive back only the expenses minus pro-rata deduction). $\endgroup$
    – Simon
    Jul 14, 2017 at 17:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Simon I don't believe he's asking in terms of FAR's but US Customs rules. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jul 15, 2017 at 5:13

1 Answer 1


This question was answered in an earlier (2013) message.

Generally, if you are ferrying an airplane and are compensated as a commercial pilot, are not carrying passengers or cargo for hire, you are operating under Part 91 of the US federal aviation regulations. That you are a paid ferry pilot is not relevant.

See 19 CFR 122.1(d) A "commercial aircraft" is any aircraft transporting passengers or cargo for money or other consideration.

As you are not transporting passengers or cargo (both of which would be covered under the commercial operator rules) or you have a passenger as a friend or the aircraft owner who does not pay for passage, you are ferrying an aircraft which is covered as a private flight.

Make absolutely certain you understand how the US eAPIS system applies to you as a foreign national bringing the aircraft into the US, and you have appropriate documentation and the owner is prepared to jump through whatever hoops Customs needs to get the aircraft ashore. The US Customs Guide for Private Flyers is a useful reference.

Simon, I disagree with your understanding. There are many operations which are not commercial, with paid pilots. An example of this is a corporation owns an airplane which requires a pilot. The corporation can hire a pilot to fly its airplane and carry its parts/executives/employees/friends. While the pilot must carry a commercial certificate and carry at least a Class II medical certificate, the flight is not considered a commercial flight, nor is the the company considered a commercial operator since it does not hold out its aircraft for hire, unless its in the air carriage business. If on the other hand that same aircraft owner decided to carry the company next door's freight and executives and charge them for it, that changes the story.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks so much. This is what I was leaning towards. It's all a bit of a gray area as I'm organising, for my airline, the movement of an aircraft for sale. As we hold an AOC but are operating this as a private flight it all gets a bit muddy. $\endgroup$
    – andy-m
    Jul 19, 2017 at 9:01

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