private vs common carriage


The company I work for owns an aircraft and uses it to take the owner and some of the employees to meetings.(Part 91) The owner asked me about the legality of letting 2 or 3 of our best clients use the aircraft for their purposes and we would invoice them for the flight time.

I guess it’s similar a Part 135 charter but we wouldn’t “hold out” and wouldn’t do it for anyone other than those clients. I called the FSDO here in houston to ask about it and was told that if we are invoicing the client, who has an expectation of commercial service, we are a charter and therefore need an operating certificate.

Of course I am not about to defy the Feds but this seems contradictory to what I’ve read and been taught. Advisory circular 120-12A defines this operation as private carriage. It is not service available to anyone or even a segment of the public, it’s 3 people, no more. Won’t be more. Does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?


You’ve gotten your answer from the people that matter, the local FSDO.


It is whatever the FSDO or FAA wants it to be. Any time you take money in exchange for a flight, beyond sharing of costs, you are walking the line of a commercial operation.


Keep in mind that AC 120-12A is a 22 year old document and at that time the terms “common carriage” and “private carriage” had not been defined by the Federal Aviation Act.

However, the scenario expressed by cirrusly falls within the “4. Guidelines” of the AC by “willingness” and “compensation”

(1) a holding out of a willingness to (2) transport persons or property (3) from place to place (4) for compensation.

Regardless of this:

Private carriage has been found in cases where three contracts have been the sole basis of the operator’s business.

This says volumes of the FAA’s position

In summary, persons intending to conduct only private operations in support of other business should look cautiously at any proposal for revenue generating flights which most likely would require certification as an air carrier.

There have been many events within the last decade that caused the FAA to more deeply focus on what is, and what isn’t a “common carriage” operation. It may all seem harmless…until there is an accident or incident, then the FAA comes knocking. Or it can be two fold. If the IRS audits and sees outside revenue related to the aircraft, they call their counter-parts at the FAA.

From my experience in both Part 91 and Part 135 management, unless the individuals to be flown are officers/employees or, “guests” of the company, “invoicing” any outside parties would be ill-advised.


I would say just have them buy a $1 share in the aircraft management company, which could be considered a flying club, and you may be able to avoid the 135 question all together since they would be aircraft owners.

#6 Not quite how that works… And that’s not what’s on the table here.



Yeah, i think I’ll stick with the prevailing wisdom, stay within the guidance of the FSDO, and keep my tickets-thanks.


It’s surprising, but you could possibly go to MEM and get a completely different answer from their FSDO. But it’s your local FSDO that would pull your ticket if you were to “cross” them and go against their judgement.