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5 Ways You Can Get Into Legal Trouble As A Commercial Pilot

Want a commercial pilot certificate? Getting one doesn't mean you can just start charging passengers for flying. Here's how you can stay out of trouble.

We talked to aviation attorney Professor Brett Venhuizen from the University of North Dakota to narrow down some of the most common downfalls.

1) Illegal Charters

Tom asks you to fly him to Spokane, Washington so he can pick up his new car. He offers to pay you $150 for the flight and expenses. Can you do it?

Of course not! Unless you're operating under an air carrier certificate, you'd be flying an illegal charter. Becoming a "commercial pilot" doesn't mean you can fly for hire on demand. If you want to know more, reference FAR 61.133.

Wikipedia

2) Medical Certificate Privileges

All medical certificates are "valid" for 60 calendar months (24 months if you're above 40 years old), but that doesn't mean you're in the clear. Let's say you received a 2nd class medical certificate, which gives you the privileges to act as a commercial pilot. After 12 calendar months, you'll need to renew your 2nd class medical, even though for 60 calendar months you can exercise private pilot privileges.

If you want some fun reading, check out FAR 61.23 for more!

3) No Instrument Rating

If a commercial pilot applicant does not hold an instrument rating in the same category and class, they will be issued a commercial pilot certificate that contains the limitation, "The carriage of passengers for hire in (airplanes) (powered-lifts) on cross-country flights in excess of 50 nautical miles or at night is prohibited." (FAR 61.133)

Banner towing and aerial photography are two professions that require a commercial pilot certificate but not necessarily an instrument rating. Your safest bet? Get that instrument rating!

Boldmethod

4) Owner Requests

If you're a commercial pilot for a private owner, know your regs. You should understand what your legal limitations are when flying under Part 91.

Part 91 is generally lenient, but you need to understand where flying for an owner is no longer "for their purpose" and becomes a charter or cargo operation.

Rod Kellogg

5) Even Flying Drones Can Get You Into Trouble!

If you break the FARs when flying drones, your commercial certificate could be on the line. Click here for an example.

Xray40000

You Have A Higher Level Of Responsibility

In summary, your level of responsibility increases dramatically when you become a commercial pilot. As you begin flying people around, the FAA tightens down regulations to ensure the safety of the flying public.

Remember that anything you do or say might be recorded by passengers. That means pay close attention to cloud clearances, MVFR conditions, and airworthiness. If you want to keep your certificates, follow the regs and always fly knowing that other people are putting their full trust in you.

Jim Raeder

What are other ways commercial pilots get into trouble? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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