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I'm a new private pilot and I've got a neighbor who would like to do some flying in his personal Cessna 172G. He is a private pilot as well and I am wondering how the regulations apply.

If he sits at the controls as a pilot (not a passenger) and pays for all of the expenses of the flight is that illegal? Even if I am PIC, do the regulations have be considered under pro rata, even he is not a passenger? I'm confused on how the regulations cover this.

He'll also cover the expenses of me flying with a local CFI to get checked out in his 172G, since I built all my time in Citabrias. I'm confused about the regulations and don't want to do anything that may jeopardize my license.

As far as the arrangement goes, building time would be the closest thing that I could think of. It's his aircraft and he said he would be willing to pay for everything. This could include just local flights, getting a feel for the 172 and building time. I would think he would allow me to borrow it to fly solo as well, once he feels comfortable with me doing that. If it's the two of us just flying around, does it just become a matter of who is PIC? If we discuss that he's PIC and can take over any time, but lets me fly a lot does pro rata still apply? If he's always PIC, then he has to pay at least his share, but could cover all costs. But how does that leave me for logging any time? I'm unsure on how the regulations consider this, since we're both private pilots at the controls.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to aviation.SE! I don't really understand what you're asking, mainly because it isn't clear what "would like to do some flying" means. Does your neighbor want you to fly him around, e.g. because he doesn't feel comfortable flying himself? Is he offering to fly together so you can both build time while sharing costs? Is he going to let you borrow his aircraft for your own use? The more specific you can be about exactly what the arrangement would be, the more likely you are to get a useful answer. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 30 '18 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ It would likely be a combination of flying together and letting me borrow it for my own use. I imagine that after I'm checked out with the CFI he knows, that we'll just fly around in the area. When he's comfortable with me in the plane, I'm sure he'd let me get some solo time in it. $\endgroup$ – Colton Gehman Jul 31 '18 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ Two friends, bumming around in a C172. Fine and dandy, but only one can log the time. There is no "commercial" activity apparent here. Now his insurance coverage is an iffy thing. $\endgroup$ – Mike Brass Jul 31 '18 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ Now, when if it comes to me being the one logging the time, does that make him a passenger and we're under pro rata, meaning I have to still pay at least my proportional share? Even if it's his plane, his fuel, oil, and airport expenditures? $\endgroup$ – Colton Gehman Jul 31 '18 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeBrass They could both log PIC time as sole manipulator of the controls if they're rated for the C172, e.g. I fly the first 30 minutes, you fly the second 30 minutes, and we both log 0.5 PIC time. Who's acting as PIC is another issue entirely... $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 31 '18 at 16:27
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Short answer: if your neighbor acts as PIC, then he can pay all the costs and you can both log PIC time for however long you were sole manipulator of the controls. But you have to avoid becoming his personal pilot, because then you're getting into commercial territory.


As background, remember that acting as PIC and logging PIC time are different things. And I'm assuming that you're going to fly VFR only, i.e. there are no IFR and/or safety pilot issues (we have a few questions on that already), and that you're both fully qualified to act as PIC (medical, currency etc.).

First, logging PIC time. 14 CFR 61.51 has the rules, and the key one for your scenario is:

(e) Logging pilot-in-command flight time. (1) A sport, recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot may log pilot in command flight time for flights-

(i) When the pilot is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated, or has sport pilot privileges for that category and class of aircraft, if the aircraft class rating is appropriate;

That means, when you're actually controlling the aircraft then you can log PIC time, regardless of who's acting as PIC. For example, if your neighbor has the controls for 0.5 and then you take them for 0.5, you can each log 0.5 PIC time. But in a single-pilot operation, only one person can log PIC at a time.

Second, sharing costs. Because a C172 is a single-pilot aircraft, if your neighbor is acting as PIC then you're a passenger. Note the wording in 61.113 (emphasis mine):

(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

[...]

(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.

As you can see, if your neighbor is acting as PIC he must pay at least 50% of those specific costs so he can always pay 100% if he wants; that just comes down to what you agree with him. If you act as PIC then the reverse applies: you must pay at least 50%.

Third, whatever arrangement you have with your neighbor, make sure you don't become a de facto personal pilot. If he starts asking you to fly him places he needs to get to, or even to just accompany him on flights because he isn't comfortable alone, then you should be very cautious. In theory, if he always acts as PIC then it's OK because you're just a passenger. But if there's an accident and the FAA has a reason to believe that he wasn't genuinely acting as PIC then you'll both be in trouble. To take an 'extreme' example, let's say he breaks his leg and asks you to fly him somewhere, with him paying all the costs. He couldn't be acting PIC because of his injury (61.53) therefore you would be acting PIC without paying any costs. That's receiving compensation for carrying a passenger and it requires a commercial certificate.

Finally, a couple of practical points to think about:

  • Two pilots in a single-pilot aircraft can lead to confusion and even accidents. Make sure you have a good pre-flight briefing that includes who is acting as PIC, and in flight always do a clear exchange of controls. And decide up front what happens in case of an emergency, like engine failure: does the person flying keep flying, or does your neighbor always take the controls?
  • You should have appropriate insurance. Even if he puts you on his policy as a named pilot you might still have to pay thousands of dollars as a deductible in case of an accident. If you don't already have it, it might be worth getting your own non-owned insurance to cover that, but it all depends on the details of the policies. If you're an AOPA member they can probably help you out with that.
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  • $\begingroup$ "If you swap controls during the flight then you can both log PIC time for whatever amount of time you were in control." - I found this sentence confusing at first read; I thought you were saying that if you swap controls, then both of you can log PIC time at the same time. Can you edit this answer to clarify that only one person can log PIC time at once (outside of operations that require multiple pilots, and PIC training programs)? $\endgroup$ – Terran Swett Aug 5 '18 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @TannerSwett Thanks for the feedback! I updated my answer, hopefully that point is clearer now. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Aug 5 '18 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ So when this is really broken down, we can just go fly for the heck of it to get me used to his C172? I guess I envision it as we just go fly with me on the controls most of the time and him staying sharp for any situations that he may need to take control. Maybe similar to dual instruction but it wouldn't be logged as dual? I figure that as long as we agree he is acting PIC in the preflight and with a positive exchange of controls he will take over in an emergency or a difficult situation that he can pay for 100% of costs. $\endgroup$ – Colton Gehman Aug 28 '18 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ColtonGehman In a word: yes. You can certainly go fly for the heck of it :-) People fly with pilot friends all the time and I don't think your scenario is too unusual. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Sep 1 '18 at 0:59
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Just make certain you are operating within the limits of your certificate. If you are not a CFI, make certain you are not offering instruction, and if you are not part of a Part 135 operation and you don't hold a Commercial certificate, make certain you are not offering to carry passengers for hire from point A to point B - you can share costs but cannot charge any sort of fee. Are you talking about him assisting you in building your time by allowing you to fly his aircraft, or are you offering a service for hire? The answer depends on what your intentions are, so remember sentence #1 above.

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  • $\begingroup$ You might not have meant it this way, but you seem to be implying that a "new private pilot" is allowed to conduct local tours or aerial surveys, which are both usually commercial operations. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 30 '18 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ Misread his initial question, I saw "Part 141" and assumed he came out with is Commercial, but looked at it again and see he graduated with Private, so yes, this changes my answer a bit. He can split the bill if sightseeing or letting folks take photos, but with Private cannot do anything for hire so I will clarify that. $\endgroup$ – Taurus69 Jul 30 '18 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Pondlife reading his question he seems to be looking to offer his friend dual control time, so they both can log the hours. Unless he's a CFI he can't legally do that. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jul 31 '18 at 4:40
  • $\begingroup$ Since he's not a CFI, just PPL, it would just be one of us logging the time I guess. $\endgroup$ – Colton Gehman Jul 31 '18 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting That's not quite correct: assuming they're both rated to fly the C172 then they could both log PIC time for however long they're the sole manipulator of the controls. Instruction is a totally separate issue. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jul 31 '18 at 16:29

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