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I’m buying a plane with business partners as we travel often for business. If I obtain my commercial license can I then be reimbursed or technically “compensated” for all flight expenses whether one, two or no partners are on the airplane with me. I have zero interest in taking compensation for non-business related flights.

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To answer your question. Yes, you can be compensated for all those scenarios provided your company owns the aircraft. You will fall in the second bullet point below. You can use your commercial certificate to fly under Part 91 and get compensated for it.


If you have a commercial pilot certificate you are allowed to get paid to fly an airplane. The rules for commercial pilots differ on who is offering the aircraft.

  • Either you or your company is offering an aircraft to transport passengers who pay your company for that transportation. This will require a Part 119 operating privilege issued under either Part 121 (airline) or Part 135 (contract) operations.

  • You are flying an aircraft that is provided by the passengers or their company. In this case, you can operate under Part 91 rules and do not need an operating privilege under Part 119.

The second example is done all the time with corporate flight departments. The company owns the aircraft to fly their employees to meetings and such. They hire commercial / ATP pilots to fly those aircraft for them.

They even take passengers / family members who are not a part of the company to their desired location. The difference here is those passengers do not pay the company for the flight.

If I purchase a Cessna 172 and want to hire a pilot to fly me to my destination that would be legal under Part 91 as I own the aircraft and I hire the pilot. If the pilot owns the aircraft and I hire them and their plane, they will need a Part 119 operating privilege.

Some may say there are exceptions where the pilot owner shares the pro-rata cost of the flight with me. That only works if the owner pilot has a bona-fide purpose of going to that destination airport that originally didn't include your wishes. That would be a private pilot privilege and not a commercial pilot privilege though.

Even though you will have a commercial pilot certificate you are not always acting as a commercial pilot when you fly. Sometimes you will be acting like a private pilot. Think of a truck driver who parks their 18-wheeler semi-truck for the day and then hops in their SUV and goes home. One is a commercial operation, and the other is a private operation.

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  • $\begingroup$ Great and clear answer! I like that you make a distinction of "acting like." I've heard the term of art "exercising the privileges of..." For example, you could exercise your private pilot privileges and expense the flight under 61.113, or your could be hired by your company to fly the company plane and exercise your privileges afforded by your commercial pilot certificate. $\endgroup$
    – Canuk
    Commented Aug 9, 2022 at 21:40
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14 CFR 61.113(b) allows pilots to receive compensation when acting as PIC “in connection with any business or employment.”

Note, this only works if you're the sole occupant of the airplane. If you have passengers, even if you're all flying to the same business meeting, the most you can do is split the expenses between all passengers. The Mangiamele ruling has this to say:

Thus, because you are transporting people to the meeting, you may not seek reimbursement from your employer for this flight under 14 C.F.R. § 61.113(b ).

There might be another scenario that works for you since you mentioned getting your commercial pilot license: Have the company purchase the airplane and hire you as the pilot to fly it. (See @wbeard52's answer)

Here is another good resource from the AOPA if you want to read more about expensing a business flight.

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  • $\begingroup$ 61.133 covers Commercial licenses. $\endgroup$
    – Jim
    Commented Aug 3, 2022 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ Your answer is a good one, and technically correct, but the "passengers" in this case are both owners of the aircraft, and owners of the business. I don't think your suggestion that the company purchase the aircraft and hire him as a pilot is really necessary, or correct. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall I think it depends on how the ownership is actually structured and where the reimbursements are coming from. You can be both the owner of the business and an owner of the aircraft, but if the business itself doesn't own the aircraft, but paying the owner/operator for the expenses associated with the use of the airplane, the owners of the aircraft (even though they own the company receiving the services) would need a Part 135 license. $\endgroup$
    – Canuk
    Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not an aviation or corporate lawyer, but pretty sure you only need a part 135 license to haul paying customers. If you are business partners and co-owners of an airplane you use in the furtherance of your business, why would you burden one partner's personal salary with aircraft operating expenses and not write it off as a joint business expense? I don't see anything in the regs requiring you to do so. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 11, 2022 at 1:51
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Yes, you don't even need to wait until you get a commercial certificate either. CFR part 61.113 states:

(b) A private pilot may, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment if:

(1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and

(2) The aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.

You don't give up private pilot privileges when you earn a commercial certificate, so if a private pilot may be compensated under the stated conditions it makes sense that a commercial pilot could as well, for confirmation we look to CFR 14, part 61.133 which states:

(1) General. A person who holds a commercial pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft -

(i) Carrying persons or property for compensation or hire, provided the person is qualified in accordance with this part and with the applicable parts of this chapter that apply to the operation; and

(ii) For compensation or hire, provided the person is qualified in accordance with this part and with the applicable parts of this chapter that apply to the operation.

So yes, you may reimburse yourself for flying expenses related to your and your partner's business.

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    $\begingroup$ Why the downvote? Please have the courtesy and fortitude to provide constructive feedback whoever you are... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't downvote but you are quoting private pilot regs when the OP is asking about commercial operations. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ @wbeard52, did you read and process the entire message of my answer? He asked "IF" he obtains a commercial cert. I pointed out first that you don't even need to have a commercial certificate to do what he is asking, and finished by quoting the commercial regs for good measure. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ I took his question as he will have his commercial certificate and wants to know if he can be compensated after getting his commercial certificate. I didn't read your answer all the way. I saw the reference to private regs and moved on. I think though the commercial regs you quoted are incomplete to fully answer why he can be compensated from his company. $\endgroup$
    – wbeard52
    Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 2:49
  • $\begingroup$ @wbeard52, well, he did say "if"... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 2:52
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Yes, in your case it might be better to get hired, a contract could be put in place to avoid cost confusion of these business trips, while your efforts can't be neglected, it's a workaround in a way that should be legal.

What's most important is that you need an operator to operate the plane, maintenance, airworthiness, parking, registration etc.. That's the hectic part.

It depends if you are under FAA or JAR to see which parts and licensing etc, to be applied. I am using ICAO concepts here, that are above anything.

Nevertheless I will quote from faa.gov : from this handout

While a commercial pilot certificate grants you the privilege to carry persons or property for compensation or hire, you must also meet the requirements of the applicable parts (e.g. Part 119; 133, 135, 137 etc.) of the regulation. This means that you might need to obtain an operating certificate or fly for someone with an operating certificate (e.g., an air carrier)

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