I am a private pilot, and I went with one of my friends to a skydiving trip in a rented Cessna 172 that we split the cost on pro-rata.

I also used my video making equipment to record the duration of the flight.

He wants entire video now; I know that I may legally ask him to pay the $100 that is his pro-rata share, but can I charge him for my time spent editing and making that video as well?

  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about regulations in the US, or another country? $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Jul 30, 2020 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ I am asking about regulations in US. $\endgroup$
    – sahmad
    Jul 30, 2020 at 22:25
  • $\begingroup$ You might get some other ideas/answers posting at Law SE...hard to kind of parse the legal question from the aviation part. $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Jul 31, 2020 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ How is that an aviation question? This look like the programming in a boat kind of scenario. Voting for moving to law.SE $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ More seriously, as I understand it from you guys, private pilots are - basically - "not allowed to charge money". SURELY it is a very bad idea, for the sake of a few dozen dollars, to even delve in to the issue "OK FAA, I honestly wasn't charging for piloting but I was charging for ..." You know how solicitors say "Avoid even the impression of wrongdoing" about their own trade; this would seem to apply there. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Aug 1, 2020 at 17:34

5 Answers 5


I'm assuming you didn't do the editing while you were sitting in the cockpit, flying the plane. Charge him whatever you want for your time sitting at home on the computer. It doesn't matter where the footage was filmed, if you're charging him to cut it up, edit it together, and render. Even an aerial photography company will itemize the charges and list digital editing services separately from the filming flight.

Just to be safe, though: Make sure he pays you separately for the pro rata cost-share of the flight. You don't want to take a lump sum and have to explain what part was for the flight and what part was for something else entirely.

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    $\begingroup$ Unless the PPL had a bona-fide reason to make the flight that didn't include taking pictures, he cannot collect a pro-rata share of the flight. There are four things the FAA looks for when determining whether the flight is incidental or not. That is one of them. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    Jul 31, 2020 at 3:28
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52: I believe he mentioned that he and his buddy were on a skydiving trip together. The camera was there to capture the fun. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 3:45
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52 Exactly. If this ever gets investigated, the two questions the FAA will be asking is whether the flight was solely to ferry the friend and whether the videography payments were a condition of the flight and/or a backdoor way to pay more than the pro rata share rather than a bona fide payment for services other than the flight. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ "He wants entire video now; I know that I may legally ask him to pay the $100 that is his pro-rata share," This seems very wrong. Surely as a private pilot you are ABSOLUTELY not allowed to charge money for aerial photography - right? OP seems to be conflating the idea "I can take 1/2 the costs from friends on flights", with, "I can run any flight business I want .. so long as I only take half!!". Note that the editing issue is confusing and totally unrelated. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Aug 1, 2020 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Fattie: This sounds like a comment that should go on the original question, since it’s ultimately the pilot that can clarify what he means. The way I understood it was this: Dude takes buddy on a skydiving trip. Dude rents a plane for the trip, and splits cost with his friend. He brings along a go-pro to record the fun. Now back home, dude’s friend wants all the highlight footage from their trip, but there’s hours of stuff. So he wants to charge his friend for cutting and editing a highlight reel of their awesome adventure. $\endgroup$ Aug 1, 2020 at 18:20

I am not a lawyer, so do not regard the following as legal advice, it is a suggestion only. Particularly since your Pilots Licence is involved, talk to a real lawyer.

As a friend who has a private pilots licence, PPL, you are indeed not allowed to charge for your services as a pilot; you are not a qualified commercial pilot, so cannot charge a commercial fee. It is then up to your friend to make the decision as to whether they want to take the risk of flying with a less qualified pilot. If they do, you can ask your friends to pay their share of the flight costs. Put this contribution request on its own in an email from your personal email address - such as [email protected] - to your friend so that there is a written, timestamped record.

Separately, as a professional Videographer, you are perfectly within your rights to charge a commercial fee for the rental of your equipment and for your professional services such as video editing. This too comes with its own risks, as you are telling your client that you are qualified to do the job on a commercial basis; if you mess it up, they have every right to sue you for damages. Send your client (who in this case also (by sheer "coincidence") happens to be your friend), an itemised invoice by email from your professional email address - such as [email protected] - to request that fee. This ensures that there is, again, a timestamped record of communication, and doing so from your separate, professional email address mitigates the risk of ambiguity.

Example Let's take a look at a look at a fictional example to further explain why I feel that you would be allowed to charge for your Videography services. I have used £ to represent any currency.

One day, three legally unconnected people called A, B and C, decided to go for a flight in a Cessna 172. A was the aviator; they had worked hard to get their PPL and were happy to take friends flying. B was the brave one; today they would be jumping out of a perfectly viable aircraft in the name of YouTube views. C was the camera person, so as a professional Videographer, film making was their job. They had been doing it for many years and, having developed some expertise, deserved the respect of being paid at least the going rate that other Videographers were charging. B had met A and C on the street, so the three separate people had no prior relationship of any kind.

Before the flight, they took some time to get to know each-other in the airfield cafe (it was a posh airfield) and discuss the flight arrangements. A told B and C that the total price of the flight was going to cost £x and asked if they would each be happy to contribute £x/3 of that cost. B and C were both happy to do so.

C then turned to B. C said that their company, "C Movies Inc", charges £x/hour for film making, which consists of £y/hour for equipment hire and £z/hour for professional services such as camera operation and video editing. B agreed to pay this fee.

After the flight, A sent B and C an email to remind them that they had agreed to contribute £x/3 toward the cost of the flight. Both B and C sent their share to A, thanking A for a great day.

"C Movies Inc" also sent their invoice to B for services rendered. As discussed, this professional invoice showed how much "C Movies Inc" was charging for equipment hire, as well as for the professional services that C provided as a consultant of "C Movies Inc". B paid this invoice quickly and without question (clearly fictitious!)

B was then able to obtain many more likes, shares and subs. All their viewers were impressed that B had done something so crazy as to jump out of a plane that was not even about to crash at all.

What you are doing here is "wearing the hat" of both A and C, which legally is doable. They are clearly distinct hats, but you can wear them simultaneously. We all wear many figurative hats throughout our lives, so the law recognises that distinction.

In this example, though it was C who physically sent the invoice, legally they did so for and on behalf of "C Movies Inc", so it was actually "C Movies Inc" that sent the invoice. The formation of a company (LLC, LTD etc) creates a legal person in its own right, thereby creating another level of separation which further removes ambiguity. This means that while Sahmad (the natural person) cannot personally cannot charge for your pilot services, "Sahmad Videography Services Inc" (the company) can charge for its professional videography services.

My other point with this example is that if it were another person in the aircraft doing the Videography, then there would be no question. They would be able to charge for their services; end of discussion. The fact that you are that person should not cause any confusion if you communicate as described.

Unrelated Example In Britain, you are not allowed to sell alcohol in a building that does not have an alcohol licence. You are, however allowed to give alcohol away for free. Separately, you can ask your visitors for donations, or to buy something non-alcoholic. For example, I have heard of some organisations charging their event attendees £5 for a raffle ticket, and each ticket comes with a free beer.

TL;DR As long as you ensure clear separation and agree everything ahead of time, you should be fine.

But trust me on the lawyer.

  • $\begingroup$ "charging their event attendees £5 for a raffle ticket, and each ticket comes with a free beer" sounds like something the police would take a very dim view of. The "and each ticket comes with" feels far to closely intertwined. (I'm sure it's happened, just not that it would have been a valid defence had they got caught) $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ I was not giving it as a what should be done, just that I have heard of it happening. I know that a charity can give away alcohol at an event and then separately encourage donations for the charity, however. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, the only way that would possibly be on the up-and-up is if the beer is actually just-plain-free free, "no purchase necessary", and they merely happen to offer you one of their free beers when you buy a ticket. But you could still get the same beer without buying a raffle ticket, just by asking for it. Otherwise, that's called selling beer. $\endgroup$
    – FeRD
    Aug 1, 2020 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52, what meets your criteria for a "bona fide" reason for a private pilot to go flying? Isn't having fun good enough? Are we supposed to justify the reason each time in our logbooks? $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 15:42
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I am a Charity Trustee so I did put my company law hat on a bit there just to explain the point about separation. In real life, everyone knows what the deal is so throwing a few bob at your mate is perfectly fine. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 15:47

First, can I suggest not using the wording like "I took one of my friends to skydiving trip". It rings somewhat different tone from message of passenger being incidental to your own trip.

Second, as was correctly pointed out, whatever you choose to do on videographing front is a separate matter from exercising privileges of PPL. Can't comment on regs & licencing standards in that industry.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't agree with your first paragraph. Isn't watching your friend jump out of an airplane a perfectly legitimate reason to go flying? The problem is the circular logic needed to try to justify the pilot flying: Do you attempt to separate them, i.e. the pilot had some totally different reason for flying that day, or do you establish that they had a common interest? I think both are valid points, but I don't think it is necessary to have that discussion unless this becomes a semi permanent arrangement between them. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't make a strong statement to disagree with. In any case you'd have to convince FAA, not me, that it is enough of a personal motive. We all understand that pilot's "reason" might be less than genuine personal need. Since OP was specifically concerned about grey area, I'd err on the side of caution, including choice of words & tone. It does matter when regs are pretty clear on intent. PIC "wanting to go for $100 burger, where pax coincidentally happened to tag along for jumping" sounds different from "friend wanted to skydive so i took him to airport because i wanted to see him do it". $\endgroup$
    – sf_711
    Aug 6, 2020 at 4:09

I think you're in a grey area based on it being your video and your equipment.

AC 120-12A contains the definition of being a carrier.

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  1. As long as you didn't do something like make a Facebook post seeking people to go flying with you I think it's safe to say you didn't hold out.

  2. If you split the cost of the plane pro-rata then you didn't do it for compensation.

A video editing service is not directly related to flight operations.

To give an analogy: if your friend were driving a rental car that you split the cost on while you all went on vacation somewhere and you took some videos while he was driving, and after your vacation was over, you hired him to edit the videos you took, that would not make him be a taxi driver any more than it makes you an air carrier doing the same thing in a plane.

However, I noticed one fine detail:

"I also used my video making equipment to record the duration of the flight."

If he took the video using his equipment I think this would be black and white legal.

If you took the video and used your own equipment that could be viewed as you creating aerial video content and then profiting from it. So I think this is a grey area. However, the video editing itself would be okay. I think the question would be who created the content? and did they make money on the content?

  • $\begingroup$ Not a lawyer but: should the OP offer his friend an unedited copy of the video for free? $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 20:41
  • $\begingroup$ I don't see why he can't give it for free. He just has to make sure he can't be accused of selling it. It's one of those things where it will be whatever the FAA says it is. $\endgroup$ Jul 31, 2020 at 20:43
  • $\begingroup$ He wasn’t contracted to make the video. It was personal footage. It was taken entirely apart from any previous agreement. If his friend hadn’t brought it up again, it would’ve been his own personal property. Anyone asking why he can’t just give it to his friend for free obviously hasn’t spent any time cutting and editing from hours of stock footage. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 1:14

Okay so I have no idea about the US laws - but let me approach it from another angle...

If it's a friend, why not give him the video and let him edit it?

Now if he's an annoying friend who never wants to pay stuff and with whom you have issues - which i guess is why you might be asking this question in the first place, if it's your footage filmed for your own self with your own equipment - with no intent to give it to him when you filmed it... then you are entirely entitled not to give him anything...

I'm also thinking what kind of friend would that be if in selling the material to him you might risk your license... if there's a risk of him reporting you, then that's not a friend and just tell him to sod off you're not giving him anything... if you see what i mean...

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure why there was a downvote, but I like this answer. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2020 at 15:48

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