What happens when a pilot carries passengers or property on behalf of an employer when the employer does not have an air carrier certificate, but receives “goodwill” and “gas money” in exchange for the flights flown by its employee? Well, if the FAA finds out about it, in all likelihood the FAA will take action against the pilot’s certificate alleging a violations of FAR’s 119.33(a) (2) and (3) and, if the pilot only holds a private pilot certificate, FAR 61.113(a). Suspension or revocation could follow if the FAA is successful.
NTSB cases such as Administrator v. Murray have held that a pilot does not have to receive compensation directly and that goodwill can be a form of compensation. Although the pilot may argue that the employer specifically told the pilot that no compensation was being charged and that the flight was not a commercial flight, if the facts show that the pilot “knew or should have known” that the flight was for compensation or hire, the pilot will be held accountable. See Administrator v. Croy and Rich. In addition to the pilot, the employer/operator will likely also face civil penalties.
If you are a pilot and you are carrying passengers or property on behalf of an employer, you have a responsibility to ask questions and determine in your own mind whether the flights can be accomplished in compliance with the FAR’s. Compliance with the FAR’s is the pilot’s responsibility. If you do not receive satisfactory information from your employer and fly the passengers or property anyway, your pilot certificate, and potentially your future career aspirations, could be in jeopardy.
Don’t let this happen to you. Fly safe and fly smart.