Legal Matters and Regulations

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I accept reimbursement for costs of flight?
Generally no, unless your organization has an exemption and you and your organization fully comply with its requirements. See links below for more information about fuel reimbursements and flying a groups’ aircraft as a volunteer.

Can a volunteer pilot organization let me fly a plane they own?
No. An aircraft owned by a volunteer pilot organization cannot be flown by volunteer pilots under Part 91. The pilot is getting compensated with free flying time, so it’s an illegal charter flight. The only exception is if the volunteer pilot organization holds a Part 135 air taxi certificate and the pilot is on the volunteer pilot organization’s Part 135 certificate.

Can a volunteer pilot take a tax deduction for costs of flight
Yes. FAA still considers it to be compensation, but has stated that it supports “truly humanitarian efforts” and will generally not treat charitable deductions related to public benefit flights as compensation or hire for the purposes of enforcing FAR 61.113 or Part 135. Additional information can be found here.

Can I bring a passenger’s oxygen bottle on board?
Generally, the FAA prohibits the use of personal oxygen units during flight because they contain compressed gas or liquid oxygen that is defined as hazardous material. However, the FAA has issued guidelines permitting the onboard use of certain portable oxygen concentrators (POCs). POCs approved by the FAA may be carried and used on board.

For more reading on the rule see:

 14 CFR 135.91 (e) – Oxygen and portable oxygen concentrators for medical use by passengers

Note: For purposes of this paragraph, an aircraft operator that is not a certificate holder under 14 CFR part 121 or part 135, may apply this exception in conformance with 14 CFR 121.574 or 135.91 in the same manner as required for a certificate holder.

Can I use Compassion (CMF) call sign?
YES, if your public benefit flying group has been authorized to use the new call signs and you have requested and been assigned a new one. The old filing procedure for using the COMPASSION call sign (where a pilot uses a portion of their tail number) must not be used after December 15, 2019.  You may request your new call sign online IF you fly for a group authorized to use it and if you follow all the guidelines for use. For more information about the COMPASSION call sign click here.

What is my liability as a volunteer pilot?
Volunteer flights are conducted under Part 91 of the FARs. Therefore, your liability as a volunteer pilot is no different than if you were flying a friend or family member.

Additionally, the passage of The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, included a provision that volunteer pilots who conduct flights to help those in need on behalf of nonprofit organizations no longer have to worry about liability in excess of the limits of their insurance coverage. Non-pilot volunteers have long enjoyed the same protection under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Volunteer Pilot Flight or Illegal Part 135: Where is the Line? – Information from the ACA, March 2017

FAR 61.113

FAA’s Kirwin interpretation

FAA’s Bunce interpretation

Flying to Help Others – Article by Rick Durden, July 2019 

Helping Others as a Volunteer Pilot… And Staying Legal – Article by Jeff Kahn, Nov 2017

 

ACA Lauds FAA Reauthorization Act For Providing Liability Protection For Volunteer Pilots