What is the FAA's definition of “for hire”?

(note: references to specific FAA documents or cases are always appreciated!)

This is a general question and might best be considered as open-ended.

It is, however, posed for clarification of a few specific regulations:

91.205(c)(4) "if the aircraft is operated for hire, one electric landing light..."

91.409(b) "...no person may operate an aircraft carrying any person for hire .... unless within the preceding 100 hours..."

91.205(b)(12) "if the aircraft is operated for hire over water and beyond vliding distance from shore, approved flotation devices..."

There may be others regulations that reference the term in Pt 91.

The point is: do these regulations imply that neither landing lights, life jackets, nor any current 100 hr inspection are required for e.g. (1) a solo rental, (2) a rental with $\leq$ pro-rata contributing friends, (3) a checkride ? It is my understanding that none of these are not "for hire" flights but perhaps there is clarification otherwise.

i.e.1) what flight scenarios/activities are conducted under for hire circumstances and therefore must comply with the above regs?

i.e. 2) Does the term for hire describe the airplane or the pilot?

Without combing through the regulations, and the vast collection of LOI on the subject, I will give a general answer.

For hire for the purposes of 91.409 applies to the carriage of persons. So the carriage of a student pilot, with a flight instructor is "for hire." The carriage of people receiving a scenic tour that they paid for, is "for hire."

If you belong to a flying club, essentially operated as a partnership, then the aircraft is not for hire, as the fixed and variable expenses are shared among the members of the club. Essentially, you are paying your share for your aircraft, assuming the club or partnership owns the aircraft. In that case the landing light and 100 hour examples do not apply.

In general, if operating part 91, and the pilot is paid in furtherance of the part 91 entity, then for hire does not apply. This would include for example a corporate pilot, paid by the owning entity of the plane.

In general, flight instruction is not considered a for hire operation, when the person receiving instruction is one of the "owners" of the plane, as in a partnership or flying club.

So, you have some examples for your second to last question.

For the last question, it covers the operation, and the purpose of the operation. So your paid pilot flying your TBM taking your family to your private island, is not for hire.

There are no less than 20 FAA Letters of Interpretation which have been written on this topic. The interpretations have even impacted states and how they charge sales and use tax.

Addendum #1: For the FAA, under 91.409, the term "for hire" applies to the carriage of the aircraft. So if a flight school owns a plane, and a student gets instruction in the aircraft, it is subject to 100 hour inspections, because the student is being carried by the plane and CFI which the flight school is providing.

• I don't think a rental plane is a "for hire" operation. The business in that case is short term rental of equipment, not flying services. I may be wrong but I'd like to see support for the idea that a rental to a non-owner pilot is a for hire operation. – acpilot Nov 16 '18 at 16:47
• @acpilot, normally "rentals" are available after a "checkout" normally provided by an instructor. The instructor charges for his time. That makes the flight a hire flight. If the instructor is hired by the aircraft owner, then the flight is not a "for hire" flight and there is no requirement for a 100 hour inspection. – mongo Nov 19 '18 at 15:18
• To be clear: If the aircraft is used ONLY for rental, and no flight instruction or carriage of anyone for hire is done, then there is no need for the 100 hour inspection, even though the aircraft is being rented. – mongo Nov 19 '18 at 15:34
• Would the "for hire" definition be extendable to cargo-carrying aircraft where there weren't "people" passengers, but instead, material, packages, or other exclusively non-live cargo? – Milwrdfan Nov 20 '18 at 20:48
• I have looked for that and do not have a definitive answer. Any cargo operation I did has 100 hour or progressive inspections. All the part 91 flying I did, except flying clubs and private owners had 100 hours or progressive inspections. All of the notes and case law I have reference "persons." I have heard people talk about "for hire" for cargo, but have not seen any authority. Sorry. – mongo Nov 20 '18 at 23:04