Think back to your days as new private pilot in Arizona. Do you remember the very strict rules on how much people could pay to fly with you? Each occupant can only pay the pilot the pro rata share of aircraft rental fees (if applicable), fuel, and parking and landing fees. This means that if there are three people onboard—including the pilot—and the expenses for the trip total $300, each passenger can only contribute $100 towards the flight.
As a private pilot yourself, you may have taken advantage of this system to earn hours while saving some money, and some pioneering pilots in the Boston area thought the same thing. Steve Lewis and Andrew Finke co-founded the Cambridge-based AirPooler, a company that allows private pilots to post flights that they will be taking, and potential passengers can ride along and pay the pro-rata share, whether they are simply looking to sightsee or are simply looking to hitch a ride to the destination the pilot has chosen.
So far, AirPooler has spread from Boston to San Diego and San Francisco, and nearly 1000 pilots have registered to fly with the company. Earlier this year during the beta-testing period, however, all was not rosy—the FAA had called several of the participating pilots to inform them that they may be violating FAA rules.
Since then, AirPooler and the FAA have been at odds over whether or not the company is indeed in violation. AirPooler has argued that they are indeed paying the pilots the pro rata share, and charging a small transaction fee. The FAA contests that while it is legal to take someone along on a trip and split expenses, advertising that you are taking the trip is where the problem lies.
As a Phoenix-area pilot, what do you think of the AirPooler idea? Would you use it, or do you think that the FAA is right? Sound off in the comment section below—the Arizona aviation attorneys of Curry, Pearson & Wooten want to know what you are thinking!