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Is it required that you possess a commercial pilots license in order to:

a) win cash prizes at competitions b) receive payment from sponsors when advertising on the plane wing for example c) be paid to perform at an air show?

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The following applies to US law. I expect it is largely similar to UK law in this respect, but obviously you shouldn't rely on FAA interpretations to interpret CAA regulations.

From the Comstock interpretation:

Prize money awarded on the basis of competition is not compensation.

So (a) is allowed without a CPL.

(b) is a grey area, and would likely depend on the totality of the circumstances. An agreement where a company agrees to pay you to paint an advertisement on your plane, regardless of how much, where, or even if you fly it, is probably legal. If the company wants to exert any operational control over the flights, it is almost definitely not legal. In any case, you would want to consult a lawyer experienced in aviation before agreeing to any such contract.

(c) is illegal without a CPL.

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