Plane-Sharing -- Not Ready For Reality

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Here's the way private GA flying is supposed to work… if you're flying to Nantucket for lunch with your friends, and they want to pitch in for gas, that's OK with the FAA. But does that mean it's OK to walk into a public place full of strangers, say "Hey, does anyone want to go to Nantucket today?" and fill your seats with what amounts to paying passengers? That's what the vendors of flight-sharing apps hope to make possible. Some might see it as a great way to reduce the cost of flying and introduce new converts to GA. But it looks to me like a disaster waiting to happen.

AirPooler made a good move in asking the FAA for clarification up front on whether their plans fit into the regulations. The FAA's response, written in the inevitable style of federal-official-legalese, didn't do a great job of clearly explaining its position. But it did make clear that in the FAA's opinion, a pilot participating in AirPooler's plan would be violating the FARs. "By posting specific flights to the AirPooler website, a pilot… would be holding out to transport persons or property … for compensation or hire," the FAA lawyers wrote.

AirPooler CEO Steve Lewis said the FAA is trying to "crush innovation" and he'll ask the agency to expand and clarify their position. If the FAA doesn't back down, he said, he'll try to tweak his business model to make it work. Flytenow, a similar operation in start-up mode, said in a blog post they plan to move forward with matching pilots and passengers, but will remove all references to expense-sharing from their website.

It's not hard to imagine the multiple scenarios that could ensue if these projects are encouraged or allowed. Sure, some pilots would have a great time, get out flying more, and meet some new flying friends. But there would also be low-time pilots with marginal skills, eager to build time, who would have an incentive to overload their airplane and push beyond their abilities. Innocent travelers, who know nothing about GA flying, wouldn't think to question whether that little airplane can really carry all that baggage, or if the weather is OK to their destination. Pilots would be distracted, trying to look after the needs of their passengers. Accidents are inevitable, and sure to keep armies of lawyers tangled up in knots for years.

There's a lot of ways the Internet helps make GA flying more productive and more fun -- by helping pilots schedule time in shared aircraft, or to find other pilots to meet for lunch, or to locate aviation events nearby. But helping GA pilots to offer empty seats to the public -- whether they pitch in for expenses or not -- seems to me like an idea not ready for the real world. The FAA might not have done a great job of defending their position, but in this case, I hope they stick to it.

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Comments (35)

The FAA has not changed their interpretation and enforcement of CFR 14 Part 61.113 nor, it seems, will they contemplate a change. Too bad as I agree that allowing the AirPooler program could reduce flight costs and help increase much needed flight operations and enhancing demand for aircraft services.

This argument has been presented several times in the past with the same FAA way of dealing with it - that is by ending with a commercial operator requirement. Insurance coverage is another problem. So the program remains blocked and surely terminated as the FAA can apply sanctions to AirPooler and cohorts.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 31, 2014 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Mary,

I share your concerns but I really want this to work and I think that some pretty simple safe-guards could minimise them. I think you're really saying it will never be ready for the real world. I disagree. So...

1. Set a minimum number of logged hours.

2. Deal with the kinds of points you raise as part of the booking process. At the time people first join up give them some information. Then at the time of each booking give a quick multi-choice quiz, so that the booking can not be confirmed until the quiz is passed. Eg, can planes be overloaded like cars? Can planes fly through storms? Do pilots have to change plans sometimes? Are pilots allowed to carry drunk passengers? etc. It's just a few mouse clicks but that way you know people have reasonable expectations of what is going to happen.

Eventually, someone will auger in, but that's just life and statistics. I reckon much more good will be done than harm. And the FAA is not here to promote aviation, only to police it. I think this kind of scheme is needed to help introduce another generation to this form of pleasure and transport. I think the FAA needs some small changes to the policy it enacts.

Posted by: john hogan | August 31, 2014 11:07 PM    Report this comment

Ms. Grady has altered this conversation in a very meaningful way: by extending the controversy to include non-expense-sharing flight operations. Her position is defensible but troublesome. While it properly calls into question the skills and judgment of the amateur pilot population, it sets up a hair-splitting proposition that defies the abilities of angels.

"Hey - wanna go for a plane ride?" is a common refrain, whether it's uttered at an airport, in a coffee shop, or on Facebook. The invitation may be issued by Steve Canyon or by Crash Cozzer. Historically - and in the FARS - the burden of prudence lies with the invitee. I'm sensitive to this, because I remember a crash in which a pilot and two passengers (one very willing; the other practically forced to get aboard) were killed on an ego flight in bad weather.

Ms. Grady seems to think that an internet-based invitation is more dangerous than an in-person one. She could be right - if a pilot needs to resort to the 'net just to find willing passengers, maybe his airport friends know something that the general public doesn't!

To me, the most troublesome aspect of Ms. Grady's proposition is that it logically would lead to regulatory action that would attempt to impose some sort of Part 135-lite regimen upon all not-for-compensation operations by all pilots who possess something less than a Commercial certificate (and an instrument rating?).

With apologies to Chicken Little, such a novel change in the regulations would be the end of not-for-hire GA as we know it. How well would you have to know a would-be passenger, in order to offer an invitation that would not run afoul of these new regulations? Would it be okay to take your second cousin for a ride, but not his best friend? Forgive me, but this sounds a lot like trying to determine how many dates you should go out on before advancing to second base. We used to leave that up to the lovers.

The only perfectly safe flight is one that never leaves the ramp. Caveat emptor is for adults. I guess I still yearn for the Agency to treat all of us as if we are adults.

"Holding out" with regard to expense-sharing flights is one thing. But "holding out" (via the Internet or even an old-fashioned cork "ride board") an offer of an absolutely free flight, to interested (and quite possibly ignorant) passengers? If money's not involved, I have to take the position that it how you make the offer doesn't matter. "Wanna go for an airplane ride?" lies at the heart of amateur pilot operations. We should leave it that way.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | September 1, 2014 9:05 AM    Report this comment

Mary,

The FAA's interpretation of Title 14 CFR Parts 61 and 119 and Title 49 USC are spot on. For many years the FAA has held that operations like AirPooler and others have been or are, engaged in "common carriage" operations. That is they are holding themselves out as providing air transportation (i.e. carrying passengers for hire.)

There are decades of interpretations, regulatory actions, Federal law changes, NTSB rulings, and court cases that support the FAA's position.

Having spent 32 years at the FAA and the manager of the branch that had responsibility for FAR Part 119 (and 135/121) I have seen all this before many times over. And, in all cases, the operations were shut down.

Now retired and as a licensed property and causality insurance agent and aviation safety consultant I can tell you that no insurance agent will insure operations like AirPooler nor will the pilots who operate under such a scheme be covered if there is an accident or incident.

Best Regards

Rick Cremer

FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (Ret.) Aviation Safety Consultant

Airline Transport Pilot, DC-9 Flight Instructor Ground Instructor A & P Mechanic Aircraft Dispatcher

Posted by: Rick Cremer | September 1, 2014 10:07 AM    Report this comment

Current FAA regulations seem not to prohibit facilitation of flight sharing by private pilots. See 14 CFR 61.113(c). FAA takes the position that a "common purpose" is required, but that position arguably is not supported in the reg plus the definition of "common purpose" may be unclear to the point of ambiguous, so FAA's legal case against facilitated flight sharing seems not to be a slam-dunk. If FAA perceives a safety problem, it probably needs to make a reg to address that problem. All that by way of saying: The insurance industry will fix this before the FAA gets around to it. Providers of hull and liability insurance will analyze the risks and, if they reach the same conclusion as the writer of this editorial opinion, they will exclude facilitated flight sharing operations from coverage or raise premiums commensurate with the risk. That should discourage most private pilots from participating. It may not be a perfect system, but its much faster and easier to implement than an FAA rulemaking and the insurance industry is inherently risk-based, whereas FAA is subject to political winds, budget considerations, and never really has skin in the game.

Posted by: Joe Corrao | September 1, 2014 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Like bungee jumping and hiking in Iran this has "bad idea" written all over it. I agree with Rick above, the insurance companies will most likely shut the thing down before the FAA gets to it. Most GA pilots have given a bunch of rides and know what wild cards pop up along the way. Full tanks and 3 people in a 172 and you're overloaded and you're hearing the stall warning whisper to you as you rotate. The low time pilot may not have heard that one before he started handing out fun rides. Do you take the 280lb bouncer or two 115lb super models? and you know the bouncer will show up first. Then oh joy, there's the weather. We all know how that goes.

The sad part is there will be 1,000's of magical flights missed also.......with beautiful machines skillfully flown by Bob Hoover clones. Sometimes we don't get what we want...............

Posted by: Larry Loffelmacher | September 1, 2014 11:48 AM    Report this comment

Plane sharing is "Bottom-Up"' GA.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 1, 2014 1:57 PM    Report this comment

Hi...

Some food for thought: Per your article one can fly okay with friends to Nantucket, but it might not be wise to enter a public place filled with strangers and relate your plans... This highlights some of the real philosophical questions I have over the issue.

Say you sit down next to one of those strangers and eventually have a conversation, or perhaps you start up a conversation with one while waiting in a two hour line at ticket window? The subject of flying comes up... can you then invite the once stranger now new friend to fly to Nantucket? Is this not how folks for years have been meeting and sometimes in the case of men and woman, dating?

Just how do you propose to regulate what friendship is, and just who a pilot is permitted to befriend? Can an associate or member of a club you belong to, but whom you have never had lunch with be a friend and qualify for sharing flight? Must one have a certain amount of shared time together before one can be a friend and qualify? How about your boss at work whom you really don't even like, can he/she qualify to legally fly with you to Nantucket and share the expenses? Can we regulate a pilot's right to speak to others? Have we forgotten the First Amendment, or doesn't it apply to pilots?

Sure, my teenage child is likely to risk major safety concerns when a driver's license is obtained, and yes, as a parent I might be genuinely concerned for possible calamity, but the question is genuinely, what can we constitutionally regulate?

I would have preferred your article to deal more with the objective legality of the issues at hand, or at least pay some tribute to them, and less with only subjective opinion.

Posted by: Ron Berinstein | September 1, 2014 1:59 PM    Report this comment

I too am very afraid of unknown pilots holding out rides to the general public. Most non-aviation people assume that a pilots certificate is like a drivers license. If you have one you can go anywhere anytime in any airplane. Those of us that fly know that is just not true. The risk to GA is really not worth opening this can of unregulated and untested worms.

A few years ago I decided to get a single pilot 135 certificate with my Aztec. I met all the qualifications as a pilot and the plane was properly maintained and vetted. I even had most of the manuals and operations spec's written and ready for submission. Then I called my insurance company. I pay about $2000/year to insure the Aztec with 1 million liability. A part 135 operator requires much more insurance. After begging for a quote the best I could find was north of $12,000. End of dream! This says something about the risk of hauling strangers for money! If the FAA OK's this the insurance companies will quickly make ride sharing prohibitively expensive,

Posted by: James Hiatt | September 1, 2014 2:01 PM    Report this comment

James Hiatt, I agree.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 1, 2014 3:55 PM    Report this comment

FAA be damned, it's hard to imagine a worse idea as a GA pilot than offering cost sharing rides to the general public. Holding oneself out as a cut-rate air carrier is simply not the way to run an airline or get other folks to subsidize your addiction. I can just see explaining this to my insurance agent or to the jury. If any pilot actually thinks this is a great idea maybe we do need the FAA to protect us from ourselves.

Sure, in an ideal world this would be a fun way to play but we live in a world of lunatics, lawyers, terrorists, psychopaths and telemarketers.

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 1, 2014 6:22 PM    Report this comment

"I would have preferred your article to deal more with the objective legality of the issues at hand, or at least pay some tribute to them, and less with only subjective opinion."

Ron, and everyone else, this is a blog. It is not a news column or a feature. It is opinion and commentary with an opportunity for you to comment.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 1, 2014 7:01 PM    Report this comment

Speaking of KACK, I have seen some really dumb pilot tricks re: flying MVFR at the Gray Lady. If these same over confident aces start holding out to the unknowing non aviation public, it could get very nasty rather quickly. Flying the line takes experience and discipline as well as a bit of luck as well. People in the 135 world receive training, are supervised by the company as well as the FAA. The 125 hour weekend wonder renting a Cirrus taking folks for rides to interesting destinations has the potential for a bad accident and top billing on the 6 o'clock news. The insurance companies will quickly see this as a big liability and start putting serious restrictions on all GA aircraft.

It is a neat idea, but the reality is that it is fraught with peril. If allowed, could some pilot with the $ resources find an old Caravan with 10 empty seats and a big cargo pod go on line to offer trips to neat places, e.g. ski slopes, golf courses, vacation spots, NASCAR etc.? I have to agree with the FAA on this one. Let's just hope that they don't go crazy and put severe restrictions on cost sharing.

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | September 1, 2014 7:45 PM    Report this comment

Over to years I have learned that an individual can interpret FAA regs any way they want to but the interpretation that counts is the FAA's. If someone wants to contest the FAA's interpretations, good luck, especially on this issue. Since the FAA has plenty of past court and NTSB rulings to back their side, it looks like money down the drain. The creators of the web sites trying this had better have deep pockets and lots of expensive legal resources to pursue this.The FAA has always looked at free flight time as a form of compensation requiring a commercial ticket, even when promoting aviation was part of their mandate. Someone on the 2 web sites that are trying the ride sharing idea have to get paid something to maintain the sites. And that alone would be enough for the FAA to shut it down. Of course the insurance issue will kill this idea long before the FAA gets around to taking any action.

Posted by: matthew wagner | September 1, 2014 8:27 PM    Report this comment

AirPooler CEO Steve Lewis is trying to skim off the top of the system - ostensibly under the veil of "innovation". But really....it is about his wallet. This nonsense will most certainly pare up uninitiated and unsuspecting passengers with potentially marginal pilots...and to make matters worse, those pilots will feel heightened pangs of 'get-there-itis" now that they have a cash mission to complete.

I wonder how many pilots that somehow think this actually is a good idea would put their children in an airplane with a 40 hour private pilot that they don't know and hasn't flown in say 23 months (except maybe an hour yesterday to renew landing currency) on a flight over water at night? Hmmmm...no takers? I guess it's okay if it's someone else's child or loved one.

And, to the person that thinks there should be a minimum number of hours before "holding out for hire" on the internet...that criteria already exists! It is called a COMMERCIAL PILOT CERTIFICATE and requires 250 hrs TT for single engine airplane (plus, by the way, an aircraft maintained beyond Part 91 requirements).

Mike Pastore., CFI

Posted by: Michael Pastore | September 1, 2014 10:46 PM    Report this comment

I think you've hit the nail on the head Mary - It's one thing for me to offer someone I know a flight (even if I know them in passing) - there's the opportunity, and indeed the likelihood, that we will have discussed my experience, the aircraft, the type of flying I do, and other factors which all combine to make them an informed passenger. Even the proverbial "airport kid" looking through the fence is going to get into some kind of conversation before I offer to take them up.

It is an entirely different matter for me to "hold out" - either by advertising flights on the internet or standing on the roadside and hollering "Anyone wanna fly to KXYZ with me?" - the personal connection isn't there, and the only purpose for them is making the trip.

In my view anyone concerned with evangelizing General Aviation should be looking for the first scenario - a chance to connect and engage with people and share our passion for flight (in fact when I do stuff like this money usually doesn't change hands). Anyone just looking for a way to cut their operating costs by picking up a passenger should recognize that they're operating outside of the privileges afforded to a private pilot, and conduct their flights accordingly.

Just my $3.50

Posted by: Michael Graziano | September 1, 2014 11:39 PM    Report this comment

Ignoring some of the previously mentioned melodrama. Perhaps this could work if allowed similarly to "Charitable or community flights". Including the pilot logged minima of 500 flight hours. Like Section 91.146 (b)(6) but still limited to sharing costs equally. A third "for-profit" party like AirPooler complicates the approach, maybe a charitable organization could benefit instead.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 1, 2014 11:50 PM    Report this comment

One solution would be for the FAA to make the process of getting a 135 certificate less onerous and time consuming. I can't understand why it takes a FSDO more than a year to review a couple of documents and inspect an airplane.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | September 2, 2014 7:14 AM    Report this comment

Flying is still much, much safer than driving, but who is going to prevent us from carpooling?

Require the PIC to be instrument-rated and stipulate that flights through Airpooler or Flytenow be conducted under IFR.

Posted by: Peter Vincent | September 2, 2014 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Please see my blog post on this, as it supports Mary's position as well.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140824195628-14177947-why-the-faa-got-the-decision-on-plane-sharing-correct

Posted by: Andrew Schmertz | September 2, 2014 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for all the thoughtful comments, and Paul, thanks for pointing out that this is a blog. It's interesting to see the wide range of opinions about whether or not this is a good idea. I think there might be a gray area from what is OK flight-sharing to what is "holding out" -- it might be like the famous ruling, "I know it when I see it." But posting offers online to carry passengers does seem to me, to cross that line. The opinions that the insurance companies will likely prove the end of these efforts ring true to me, but we'll have to wait and see how it all plays out..... my gut feeling is that the FAA is not likely to give ground on this... it would be tough to make the safety case. Peter, I think you can make the case that flying in the scheduled airlines is safer than driving, but flying GA, not so much.

Posted by: Mary Grady | September 2, 2014 9:25 AM    Report this comment

And Mary, please don't be a stranger, come back anytime.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 2, 2014 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Peter, where did you get the impression that flying is "...much much safer than driving?" That is clearly not true. Unless you are talking about driving a motorcycle, then it is close. And last I checked the FAA does not regulate carpooling so carpool away.

Posted by: Joel Ludwigson | September 2, 2014 10:32 AM    Report this comment

I've always thought that achieving a Private Certificate meant that one demonstrated sufficient competence to carry passengers. It does not stipulate that a passenger need be intimate friends or family, or only those familiar with aviation and flying, or exclude strangers.

If this is not true, and a lot of pilots here seem to making such a judgment, perhaps the FAA should re-visit the requirements for a PPC so as to guarantee any and all passengers are risk free.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 2, 2014 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Edd, in the case of "charitable" and "demo-for-sale" flights the FAA has established a minimum of flight hours for the PIC. Apparently, the FAA is satisfied that setting this conditions is safer than the PPL flight experience requirements. So, perhaps you are correct. The FAA should consider a 250 hour minima for the PPL and let's say 1500 hours for a Commercial/Instrument ticket.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 2, 2014 11:33 AM    Report this comment

Sometimes I get the feeling we all get a little far afield when thinking about such matters. What I took away from this is I am going to fly to XYZ anyway, so why not see if I can halve the expense of the flight?

My personal safety margins will remain in place and the person(s) accompanying me will have to abide by my decisions as to whether we go or cancel.

Look at all the Young Eagle flights given. People show up at the airport and give us their children to take flying with almost no knowledge of the pilot/plane involved. It has proven to be a good experience, not a bad one.

Posted by: Ric Lee | September 2, 2014 11:42 AM    Report this comment

We're 25 comments deep, and nobody else seems to be concerned that Ms. Grady has lumped expense-sharing flights AND non-expense-sharing flights together, under the evil auspices of "holding out."

The FAA's position traditionally and recently has addressed the point of compensation (although their definition of "compensation" has been remarkably elastic). Mary's position seems to be that it's not about the money; it's about the manner of extending the offer. This is new and remarkably fertile ground. If ordinary private pilots are competent to provide airplane rides to others WITHOUT CHARGE, what possible difference can it make if the invitation is made in-person, by snail mail, e-mail, or Facebook page? And if ordinary private pilots are NOT competent to provide airplane rides to others without charge, what does that say about the Privileges and Limitations of the certificate? These questions are not intended to be rhetorical; I'm not just being argumentative or playing Devil's advocate. Mary's proposition (if enacted) would require answers to many such specific questions. If it's okay for me to send an invitation by e-mail, does it mater if I send e-mails to more than [quantity] people? Do they have to be separate e-mails, or is one "group" addressee e-mail okay? For the Outlook-facile, how about a MailMerge e-mail process? If AirPooler is no good, is my personal Facebook page okay? My Christmas card list? Seriously.

How intimate does your relationship have to be with someone, in order to satisfy this emerging standard of not holding out? Sounds a lot like pillow talk to me.

Is this about compensation, or is it about "strangers?" Mary's blog post seems to posit the latter, with the medium of the message being the determinant of who's a stranger. This gives me chills.

And while I suspect that suggestions (as above) to conduct all such flights under IFR are intentional hyperbole, I would caution that such ideas would receive a warm welcome in certain offices in OKC. Do we really want to impose Part 135-lite standards upon ALL passenger-carrying operations? Is compensation no longer the real issue? Intentionally or not, that's where Mary's post seems to be leading us.

In an age in which we're arguing for the elimination of the Class-3 medical, do we really want to encourage Colgan-like requirements for giving a stranger her first airplane ride?

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | September 2, 2014 12:10 PM    Report this comment

YARS, it depends.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | September 2, 2014 12:16 PM    Report this comment

Two points, one as "food for thought" and the second one to clarify what "ride sharing really means in the GA universe:

(1) What about an app that facilitated shared rides only of other pilots, not the general public? That scenario is a rather different proposition than making matches with seats and member of the general public. The "shared purpose" limitation still applies; however, that is infinitely assailable due to its intrinsic ambiguity.

(2) "Ride Sharing" in not-for-hire GA means pro-rata sharing of the direct costs of the flight; not 1/30th of the hangar rent + 1/100th of your annual etc, rather a by-passanger split of the fuel & oil consumed on the trip. No one will get rich from this because it flatly bars charging more for the trip that it directly cost; plus you have to pay your part too.

Posted by: George Kaplan | September 2, 2014 1:19 PM    Report this comment

Many good comments. No question this whole thing is a slippery slope and Thomas is correct -- where does stranger end and acquaintance begin. Having said that, I think this is not that complicated. The issue really is the intention in using the medium. There is a fairly clear distinction in my mind between chatting with a friend or making plans with a co-worker to go somewhere and advertising on a website to complete strangers that you are going somewhere and if they want to hitch a ride and share the expense they are free to. No relationship before meeting at the airport or after you arrive at the destination and go your seperate ways. The clear intention of these websites is to allow non-commercial pilots to find passengers who are looking to save money and hitch rides for a share of the expenses. The website is also compensated for its service. And it is a service. And that is the problem. Other than the sharing of expenses versus a profit making activity, there is little to distinguish this from a real commercial operation. I am willing to bet that the passengers fully expect some level of service from the pilot or else they will post a terrible review about how the pilot was late and the plane was ratty and the flight turbulent, etc. And it will be the desire to avoid a bad review that will motivate private pilots to try to act like a commercial carrier so as to avoid bad reviews and to be seen by other propective passengers as "professional."

Posted by: Ken Appleby | September 2, 2014 1:29 PM    Report this comment

So how does this differ from the EAA Young Eagle program? The only difference I can see is this involves cost sharing and this is specifically allowed under FAA regulations.

Posted by: M Kett | September 2, 2014 7:54 PM    Report this comment

Echoing several of the previous commenters, but... Technically there is no difference between giving a ride to your Mother vs to a complete stranger (and all those who fit in between). So what possible difference does it make how the rider comes to know about the ride? It doesn't. As far as insurance is concerned (and I admittedly know only as much about insurance as that they are out there only to make as much profit as possible), if my next-door neighbor were killed in a plane I was piloting, his family would be as apt to sue my estate as would the family of a total stranger. So in my thinking the insurance would be against this only because there would become more "opportunities" for exposure. Perhaps the insurance industry needs to come up with a relatively low-cost and easily available "ride share" policy available for purchase by the rider. If the rider declines, then they waive their right to potential damages. The state government has issued me a drivers license (based on written and practical testing) and they care not to whom I give rides to. I have similarly demonstrated by knowledge and practical testing that I am a capable pilot. The Federal government has thus issued me a pilots license. I can give rides to whomever I want to. The only difference that should be considered is whether the rider is being charged for the ride or if they are only sharing the cost. Similar controversies are becoming prevelent with automobile ride sharing. When does automobile ride sharing become tantamount to taxi rides or bus fares? If it were me providing the ride, at least to someone who I did not know, I would definitely explain some of the points that are more relevent to flying vs driving, and I would also have them sign some kind of document holding me harmless in case of an accident (not that some lawyer couldn't tear that up in a heartbeat!).

Posted by: Eric Nelson | September 3, 2014 1:01 PM    Report this comment

In reading several discussions about this issue, there is one point I haven't seen anybody bring up. If we have lots of pilots giving rides to strangers, how long will it be before some nut case or terrorist hijacks a small plane? Forget about the FAA or the insurance companies. What will the TSA's reaction to that be? We have been able to avoid crippling security measures at most small GA airports with the argument that we are at least somewhat familiar with our passengers. I remember one such proposal that pilots would have to have an ID issued by the destination airport anywhere we went, presumably before we could land there. Sound like fun? All this ride sharing does away with that argument.

Posted by: John Worsley | September 3, 2014 3:59 PM    Report this comment

If the TSA had their way, every intercity bus and passenger train would be treated to the same outstanding service that TSA provides for aircraft. They already tried to get their mitts around Part 135 operations.

But presuming that your nut-job did get ahold of a small plane, what would s/he do with it? Ryder trucks are far better for delivering explosives to target buildings.

I'm still fascinated that this idea of "holding out" has been extended beyond expense-sharing, to cover every airplane ride that a pilot gives to anyone who isn't his spouse or offspring.

Posted by: Thomas Yarsley | September 4, 2014 8:51 AM    Report this comment

While appreciating the concerns regarding risk assessment and the legality of "holding out" of air carrier services to any and all with a VFR-only PPL and aircraft, the danger is that the current discussion or fall-out from an incident might lead the regulators (or worse, the insurers) to question any ride sharing, payment made or not.

"I'll give you a ride to Nantucket today but next week I need a ride to Albany." No traceable cash transactions needed, but where is the common purpose here?

Local airport pilot associations have periodic fly-outs with empty seats filled with people they may have not seen before. They may even be guests of other members in other aircraft. They may be expected to cough up for gas. Even here the common purpose is a grey area regardless of whether a remote hamburger is the objective. In their defense, the associations do not generally advertise flights as a service to the general public.

Recently, I joined an organization that is dedicated to keeping classic aircraft flying. In return for paying for a yearly membership, and a suitable fee to "sponsor" a classic aircraft I can be checked out and fly a specified number of hours in that aircraft. But other non-pilots can respond to the web advertisement and pay for flights too, flown by non-commercial rated member pilots. The cost of the flight includes a year's membership in the organization. In effect the passenger is sponsoring the classic aircraft as well, thereby satisfying the principle of common purpose. The pilot pays the same amount for the hour of flight regardless of the presence of a passenger, thus they are not compensated.

The regulatory bodies are apparently OK with this.

The foundation's insurance company is apparently OK with this too because the foundation rules have strict requirements on recency of experience, regular checkout flights, aircraft maintenance and a requirement for any and all pilots and passengers to sign a waiver with the usual "if we do something dumb, it's your fault" clause.

What is a little surprising is the number of earlier attempts there have been going back to the 1970's or earlier to establish work-alike outfits like AirPooler that have all foundered on the same questions of compensation and existing regulations. There was no internet advertising back then but it is hard to see where AirPooler's concepts differ from those of years gone by.

Posted by: David MacRae | September 16, 2014 12:13 PM    Report this comment

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