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Learn To Fly For Business - Three Things To Consider When Using Your PPL For Work
By Kyle Garrett
Learning to fly is an exciting and personally-gratifying experience that can create a lot of interesting opportunities. For many pilots these opportunities are things like long weekend golf trips or fly-ins. Some pilots, on the other hand, learn to fly for business. Not airline flying, but using their PPL for work. In general, flying for business adds a level of convenience unmatched by other forms of transportation, but it comes with three important caveats:
1. Flying for business is convenient
When it comes to business flying, which is distinct from commercial aviation like airlines or charter aircraft, it is all about convenience. The goal is to get there and back faster, whether for a conference across the country or a quick meeting at company headquarters. With many modern, and not so modern, aircraft you could leave your office in New York City and make it to Washington, D.C. in about 2 hours. Flying a small single-engine airplane is at least 2 to 3 times faster than driving, and in many cases, a small plane can beat airlines in door-to-door times, especially on short hops.
An important question to ask is, what's the difference in commercial aviation and flying for business? This is one of the keys to success. In general, commercial aviation is any flying that is done where the business is flying to earn profit from the flight, for example, flying an airline or charter aircraft. Business flying, on the other hand, is where the flying is incidental to business. For example, if you worked for an accounting firm with offices in multiple cities, you're flying for business when you are commuting to and from business meetings; the flying is incidental because you could just as easily drive or take a bus to the meeting.
2. Don't have unrealistic expectations
Unrealistic expectations and flying don't mix well. There are some situations where making a flight just shouldn't happen. Weather creeps in or your medical expires. There are plenty of situations where you shouldn't make a flight. It's important not to let the pressures of your business push you to do something you'll regret later. There are other situations where flying conditions are fine, but the pressure of meeting a schedule or something else can cause issues. For example, say you're trying to make a meeting in 2 hours and you have 1.9 hours of flying to do. This could cause you to miss some otherwise minor detail that causes some real trouble; for example, maybe you forgot to fuel the aircraft and you have to land halfway there.
3. Don't run into "money issues"
Don't get in trouble with the FAA. The biggest stumbling block for business pilots is money or, as the FAA refers to it, "compensation." It would seem that there would be specific regulations for this kind of thing and there are, but the FAA tends to stack the deck in their favor. In general, as a private pilot, you cannot accept any compensation for flying. This includes actual payment and things like free flight time. You can share expenses for the flight as long as you pay your share and everybody in the plane is going to the same place together for the same reason (e.g. a business meeting at corporate headquarters). As a private pilot, no one can charge people to fly with you and you can't be paid to fly anyone anywhere. In fact, considering the nature of this area of the regulations, it would be best if you didn't take any money at all for anything. At the very least you should contact your local Flight Standards office or a qualified aviation attorney and discuss your situation.
One of the best ways you can benefit from a private pilot certificate is to learn to fly for business. As long as you stay on top of the details, there is no more convenient way to travel for business.