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Cessna as an Uber Taxi ?

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Cessna as an Uber Taxi ?

Old 28th Mar 2015, 05:04
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Arizona
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Cessna as an Uber Taxi ?

I live in Phoenix and sit right between 2 civil aviation airports, one right down the road from me. Now I'm a regular visitor to Vegas (45 mins by 737) and I'm getting to the point where I can't take commercial aviation any more.

What would be the feasibility (and legality) of me finding a local pilot who would ferry me out and back for a fee ?

If I'm way off base here no problem, but I have always wanted to ask.

PS - what would be a reasonable fee for such a flight ?
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 06:24
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A fair question.

Basically, it is illegal to pilot an aircraft for compensation or hire, even a private arrangement, unless the pilot has a current COMMERCIAL license.

Which is a step above simply having a private pilot's license, in terms of training, examinations, currency, medical exams, etc.. (But less advanced than an ATP (Air Transport Pilot) ticket - which is what you need for scheduled airline flying.)

Additionally, any aircraft flown for hire must meet stricter requirements for maintenance and inspections than someone's personal aircraft.

FAA rules generally allow things like sharing fuel costs. But no actual "profit" or compensation for time, without a certified pilot and aircraft.

But if you can find someone with a CF license (any flight instructor (CFI) will have one - can't be paid for teaching without it) and a certified plane (any flight school/rental planes will qualify), you may be able to work something out.

Fees? Depends on whether you want two flights out and return, or the pilot to hang around in Vegas waiting for you. And the plane involved (fuel burn, power, etc.)

But likely $180-200 per flight hour at a minimum, at flight school rates, and $?? per hour if the pilot has to sit around waiting. (Someone can correct me if needed - been a while since I had to rent). But an individual with the appropriate licenses, but no "school overhead" to cover, might be able to do a little better.

Last edited by pattern_is_full; 28th Mar 2015 at 06:35.
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 11:24
  #3 (permalink)  
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Driving a car for hire (like Uber) is also illegal without a taxi license... At least in The Netherlands. Doesn't mean people don't do it.

And you could always rent a plane without a pilot, then ask a friend with a pilots license to fly it for you for free. He doesn't get paid to fly the plane, so that would be fine. Now you need to find an aircraft owner who would rent you the plane while you don't have a license. Maybe a friend of you would do that, so that would be OK too. But what if that pilot friend is the same person as the aircraft owner friend? Gray area...
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 11:54
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Last edited by Radix; 18th Mar 2016 at 02:34.
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 12:23
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Avoid this type of "business" completely, unless it is being offered by a duly authorized commercial air service. There are layers upon layers of reasons why this could be not good, if done "the private" way.....
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 14:04
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Thanks for the responses, all good advice and I will be looking further into my options.

Of course if I had the right friends, this would be my preferred method of flying from Vegas to Phoenix

Gives you an excellent view of the terrain as well, it's a great flight route.

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Old 28th Mar 2015, 18:52
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You could always learn to fly and buy an aircraft...
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Old 28th Mar 2015, 20:34
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Short answer:
It will either be very illegal but cheap.
Or it be legal and very expensive....More than a ticket on Southwest.

Only way to fly "cheap" and legally on a small plane with a private pilot would be if the pilot is a genuine friend of yours, you go on the Vegas trip to have fun together and you share the expense of the flight.

Or you can just drive in 6 hours.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 00:18
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You say the time to get to LV takes 45mins if that is in, say a 737? then at 500mph that is a distance approx of 379m. Depending on acrft of course but an example do it in a C152 you could reckon on 6-7 hours round trip which is not practical?
Phoenix to Las Vegas is around 240 NM, really. That can be done with a standard single engine aircraft in a little more than two hours one way, possibly faster with a more capable aircraft.

The approximation using airline cruise speed neglects that for shorter distances, an airliner will use (relatively) more overhead for taxi, take-off, climb, etc.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 10:51
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Could somebody explain this Uber Model a bit? I read some little stories about it, but did not dig into the business model to add something valuable.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 11:29
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Mr. Fonsini,

If you were thinking of flying with a light a/c perhaps you could see if there's a smaller more local airfield near or quick to reach from your home and perhaps there's a handy alternative at/close to Las Vegas too ? You'll save a fair amount of ground transport time in getting airborne with less hassle, parking, check-in etc. and from the selected destination airfield an easy ride (I hope) to your customer or office facility. They might be able to pick you up.

Another thing, is if you wish to go/ return early late as the day's business proceeds, you can readily choose a departure time to suit.

Lastly the Cessna 172, for example, is a good solid safe platform, reasonable speed & not too expensive to operate, so paying for using one shouldn't really be awful and after all what are 'planes really for if not to travel.
[Remember the man who flew a rented one solo to the North Pole and back - so it has bags of endurance too.

Good Luck - go and ask around !

mike hallam (but far away in England)
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 12:43
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I would guess you have good weather generally in that area? Just get yourself a private licence if medically you are ok... good fun and much cheaper in the end. Plus on bad weather days, let Southwest take the strain!
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 12:58
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If you do it any other way than using a properly approved charter (air taxi) operator, then you can bin all your life, health, almost all, insurance documents because they may/probably will be invalid without a specific clause permitting private flying as a passenger, and/or student, and/or pilot.

And you should check the small print about flying in a commercial charter aircraft below a certain size. Some policies do not allow it.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 14:24
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Love this, here we are on a forum that should be very positive about light aircraft and promoting it, someone comes on and asks a question about flying and gets a 90% negative response - come on guys, yes let the OP know the problems, but be positive about it and suggest ways he might be able to do this, well done for the posters that did so!
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 17:29
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Radix is closest. Under FAA rules (119.1) if a person or business supplies both a pilot and an aircraft to a customer they are an air carrier and require an air carrier operating certificate.

pattern_is_full's answer misses the operating certificate, in this case (small airplane) a part 135 certificate. I'm not quite sure what he means by CF license. In order to be compensated for their services pilots must hold a commercial pilot certificate. The FAA has even held that a private pilot flying for "free" is being compensated with hours logged toward a higher rating.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 19:10
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Many charter or sight seeing flights that would require an AOC are conducted as an "introduction flight lesson", so you can fly anywhere as long as the plane&pilot are licensed for flight instruction. That seems to be a lot easier than getting an AOC.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 20:49
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Interesting commentary on "part 134-1/2" operation here: Flying on borrowed time | Business Jet Traveler.

Bottom line is, there's no legal way to do this. The "trial flight" might work once, if you find a shady CFI to do it. The schools I know are wide-awake to this and just plain won't do it. "Oh, I want a trial lesson, and by the way it would be real convenient if at the end you could drop me off in Vegas". Yeah, sure.

There are operations that kind-of do this, by selling each customer (on paper) a small share of the aircraft, which makes it a legit Part 91 (private flying) operation. Surf Air out of San Carlos is an example of this. Annual membership is in the region of $100k I believe.

The closest you could get would be to persuade someone to sell you say a 1/10th share in their aircraft and then, assuming they have a CPL, you could pay them to fly "your" airplane. There would be significant cost and paperwork hassle associated with this. And if someone asked me to do this I'd talk to my insurer and look very, very carefully at all the applicable regs. (Actually, personally, I'd just say no thanks, or more likely you must be kidding).

Sorry, the FAA regulates fly-for-hire for a reason.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 21:34
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Only way to fly "cheap" and legally on a small plane with a private pilot would be if the pilot is a genuine friend of yours .....
That may be the regulation in the US. (It isn't in the UK.)

I haven't looked at the relevant FAA regulations for a long time but my recollection is that they permit private pilots to accept payment for a share of expenses (not a fee) provided both pilot and passenger(s) are travelling to a common destination and the pilot does not pay less than the pro rata share of the direct costs - fuel, oil, airport expenses, aircraft rental fees (if any).
I don't remember friends being mentioned but, if you are correct, how do the Regs define 'friend' and 'genuine'?

come on guys, yes let the OP know the problems, but be positive about it and suggest ways he might be able to do this
Well said.

It's been a feature of this forum, and sometimes others, since I joined PPRuNe 15 years ago that people tend to expend more time and effort trying to find reasons why some activity is or might be illegal than in trying to think of ways in which an objective could be achieved legally.

People sometimes come up with tortuous reasoning in an attempt to support their assertion that something is illegal. I have often wondered why they don't use the same degree of effort and ingenuity to try to think of ways in which, with a few changes, it would not or might not be.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this: Flight-Sharing Startup Sues FAA Over Ban on Service - Wall Street Journal
If that link fails, try: Plane-Sharing Startup Sues FAA Over Ban on Service

Last edited by Flying Lawyer; 29th Mar 2015 at 22:15.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 22:11
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Only way to fly "cheap" and legally on a small plane with a private pilot would be if the pilot is a genuine friend of yours .....
That's overstating the case actually. For one thing, the FAA is hardly in a position to determine what constitutes a "genuine friend" (actually I wish I knew myself). The term which crops up is "shared purpose".

So... if my best buddy from school who I've known all my life says, I want to go to Vegas, could you fly me there, and he pays half the costs, I'm on thin ice. But if I'm preparing my flight and a total stranger walks up to me and says, "Hey I see you're planning a flight to Vegas, any chance I can come along with you and share the costs" that is most likely OK (though maybe not prudent in the event that there's an accident and he or his family sues).

Of course there's a huge grey area here and realistically, as long as there's no accident and nobody complains, the chances of the FAA taking any action are extremely small. But them's the rules.
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Old 29th Mar 2015, 23:19
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Here's another good link:

Reigel Law Firm, Ltd., an Aviation Law Firm

Even if you 100% own the aircraft and pay 100% of the costs, the FAA can find a way if they really want to. There was a case (I saw it one of the mags, don't remember the reference) along the lines... my best customer comes to me and says "I really need to get to Vegas tonight and the last couple of flights are full. Any chance you could take me there?" So I do, and don't charge him a nickel. The FAA can maintain that the payment was in kind, i.e. the promise of future business.

The real killer, imo, is the risk of being sued. An example... a few years ago I offered to fly a good friend's daughter to her summer camp, 150 miles away. It would have been a nice day out for me and her parents. Then her friend wanted to come along too - someone unknown to me, the parents also. That was the end of that. The risk of being sued after an accident, or even nothing at all - the poor darling was traumatised by a go-around, or by a normal takeoff, and the next five years spent battling lawyers. No thanks.
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