FAA Warns Customers Away From Aircraft Ride Share Apps


The FAA is warning potential customers of aviation ride sharing apps likened to “Uber for airplanes,” that their trip might not meet the normal standards for fly-for-hire journeys. “If you pay for a charter flight you are entitled to a higher level of safety than is required from a free flight from a friend,” the agency said in an unusually pointed public statement. “Among other things, pilots who transport paying passengers must have the required qualifications and training, are subject to random drug and alcohol testing, and the aircraft used must be maintained to the high standards that the FAA’s charter regulations require.” At the same time it sent a letter to San Francisco-based BlackBird saying that its pilots must meet the terms of Part 119 operations.

Throughout its website promotion material and its legal fine print, BlackBird insists that it is not an air carrier by matching passengers with available seats or aircraft. The FAA isn’t buying it, however, particularly when it comes to its stable of pilots. “We have little trouble concluding that the pilots listed on BlackBird’s pilot database selected by the user are transporting persons or property, from place to place, for compensation. Despite BlackBird’s assertion that the pilots are not transporting persons or property, it is clear that they are being hired for that very purpose.” BlackBird did not immediately respond to an email request for comment and its website remains active.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I believe in ride sharing.I feel it is as safe as commercial flying and makes it easier for the public to access a vacation island or other destination not accessible by commercial flights.

  2. For decades we simply posted a note on the FBO bulletin board or passed word around “anyone headed to or by xxx such and such a day, I need a ride and will spit the expense if you can drop me off”. Sometimes maybe you had to get your airplane back from somewhere if you needed to ground during a trip due to weather and rent a car the rest of the way. Or maybe get a relative transported to or from somewhere to be dropped off to save you the trip or the drive when it was not convenient. The FAR(s) allow private pilot pro rata expense share. (BTW if you ever get friends or relatives to share the expense let me know how you do it 🙂 as pro rata to them means “thanks for the ride”). If the ride share is kept within the parameters of the pro rata regulations it should be good. Social media and electronic communication just make it easier to get past the FBO bulletin board.

    61.113 Private pilot privileges and limitations:
    (c) A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.

    Pro-Rata, equal portions.

  3. Except the context is different. A bulletin board in an FBO is viewed by people familiar with bulletin boards in FBOs. And, by extension, general aviation. Such people tend to understand the abilities and limitations of GA. By that I don’t mean they know the Vfe of every plane on the field. Rather, they do know that freezing rain is a bad time to visit grandma, no matter how close to the holidays. And that Billy Bob’s plane may look ratty but has a fresh engine, but to stay clear of Mr. Oblivious whenever he shouts “clear!”, even if his plane is brand new (having totaled the previous one after landing gear-up in the freezing rain).