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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.

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  • $\begingroup$ Related: If “flight time is compensation”, how can a PPL holder legally fly at all? $\endgroup$
    – Bianfable
    Dec 21 '20 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? If "flight time is compensation", how can a PPL holder legally fly at all? $\endgroup$
    – Roh
    Dec 21 '20 at 9:56
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    $\begingroup$ Not a dupe. The "parents" aspect of this question isn't addressed the the suggested dupe at all. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Dec 21 '20 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ For your parents, just pay for the rental yourself and take them up. They're your parents, they want to see you do something "special". Don't bother them about money, especially if you're living at home. (Basic rule of thumb - if your parents are paying for your cell phone, you're not "independent"). For your friends, I suggest telling them, "Sure, I'll take you up if you pay the rental fees". Then tell them how much rental, etc costs. Hopefully that'll be the last time they mention it. :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ @BobJarvis-ReinstateMonica "Sure, I'll take you up if you pay the rental fees" Isn't that illegal? Pilot has to pay at least pro-rata share (in the U.S., at least,) no? $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Dec 21 '20 at 16:07
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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.

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    $\begingroup$ This is the best, most common sense answer to this sort of question that I have ever read. $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 17:10
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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.

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  • $\begingroup$ I meant parents paying for me to take friends flying, which it seems like it would fall under the same category of non income. Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – mvpg
    Dec 21 '20 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Dean F But those provisions are for passengers sharing expenses no? if he's getting fully reimbursed to take non family members flying, it's getting a little grey I think. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Dec 21 '20 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ @mvpg: Your parents give you money - an allowance, or a Christmas or birthday present. How you spend that money is up to you. Unless they put something in writing that says a given amount is specifcally for taking your friend(s) for a plane ride, I can't see how it would be a problem. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Dec 21 '20 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnK - Part 61.113 says that a private pilot can not be compensated in full or in part for flying of passengers nor property. Cost sharing is allowed as long as the pilot pays their pro rata share. So, it would not be a grey area. If the money were given by the parents of a dependent pilot, the money would be treated as the equivalent of the pilots own money. As long as the funds did not carry the stipulation of carrying the non-family member. If the pilot is charging for the act of carrying passengers, that is black and white regardless of who is getting charged. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Dec 21 '20 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ Another great answer. So often these discussions degrade into questions over who's idea it was to go flying in the first place, and what you plan to do when you get there... $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 17:14
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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!

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    $\begingroup$ Corrections have been made to your answer. Feel free to roll back the edits if you disagree with them. Also, a private pilot can charge the passengers all the expenses of the operation of the flight itself to include fuel, landing fees, oil, other fluids, and other costs directly related, minus the pilot’s pro rata share. Hangaring and tie-down fees at the domicile airport, and routine/scheduled maintenance and repair fees can not be charged. If all of the above and other operating costs are wrapped into a flat rental fee, the rental fee can be shared. But, not any association fees or dues. $\endgroup$
    – Dean F.
    Dec 21 '20 at 8:14

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