I am a new private pilot. My parents want me to take them flying. I do work and have a bit of my own money, but compared to the cost of flying it is not much. My parents paid for most of my training. I am still in high school, so I live with them and they pay for most of my existence. Obviously I cannot be compensated for flying them, but I wonder if there is any legal way for this to happen. The same question can be extended to when I take friends flying. Would it be as simple as me using a card that draws from one of their accounts? Me paying but with their money. Any knowledge/advice is appreciated, I would rather not break FAA regulation on my first flight as a private pilot.
The short answer is that in practice the FAA doesn’t care about “compensation” between family and bona fide friends.
The long answer is that the FAA’s mission is to protect the general public from pilots. (If they also happen to protect pilots, that is a side effect at most.) Your parents and bona fide friends are not the “general public”.
As a practical matter, the FAA could never prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court that any particular dollar that your parents or bona fide friends gave you was for flying vs a gift or for something unrelated, especially when it is likely they would be uncooperative with any investigation or charges against you. If they give you money, and you happen to use some of it to take them flying to a place of your choice, so be it. It’s just not worth the FAA’s time to look too closely at that, so they consciously turn a blind eye.
Where you will get into trouble is flying strangers or acquaintances to a place of their choice. The exact path the money takes is irrelevant; if you accept compensation from the “general public”, then you are operating an illegal charter, and the FAA will hit you like a ton of bricks for that.
The question is if the money given to you by your parents can be considered income. In the case of a parent paying for a legal dependent’s expenses, I do not think this can be considered income. Regardless of how the expenses are paid. This would not be considered flying for compensation. Friends paying for your flight time would fall under Part 61.113. A non-family member does not have a previous benefactor-dependant relationship.
An indication of this is how the IRS treats money exchanged between parents and dependent children as opposed to money exchanged between people who are related in a different manner. Even when money is exchanged between parents and non-dependent adult children, it is considered a gift instead of dependent support.
To make it clear, your parents can pay for the expense of your flight time. Your parents can pay for the expense of flying them as long as it is not required of you to fly them as terms of payment. Your parents can pay for the expense of flying a friend or friends as long as they are not requiring it of you as terms for payment.
No one else can pay for your expenses to fly property, another person, nor themselves. You can not receive any income or compensation from any source for flying. Someone besides your parents paying for your pro rata share of expenses would be considered compensation when flying other people or property.
However, there is not a prohibition on someone paying for your expenses to fly yourself solo. Just as long as it is not in the furtherance of a business or part of your employment. And, there is no prohibition on someone going you a monetary gift that you can spend freely on anything you so choose.
I believe you are able to split the maintenance fees with them. Then, as you know, once you obtain a commercial pilots certificate, you can make money. However, until then, you can‘t even have your passengers pay the full maintenance fee/flying fee. Also congrats on your Private Pilot Certificate. Have fun flying!