It was bound to happen. We have UberX and Lyft which competes for Taxi services around the country, now comes Airpooler for those who want to hitch a ride on a private plane. However it seems that the FAA has gotten into the act of trying to find some regulation why Airpooler just won’t fly.
“You’re going to Napa in your Cessna? Me too! If you let me hop in, I’ll pay my share of the gas!” That arrangement is legal, but the FAA has declared that connecting brave passengers with amateur pilots for a fee is definitely a no-no.
Seems that the FAA feels that flying for a fee for general aviation pilots has always been a no-no. If you are not a commercial pilot with an ATP or CPL certificate it seems that you can’t ask for fees up front to deliver passengers where they want to go. Most general aviation pilots do not go all the way with their ratings. Usually they end up with a PPL (Private Pilots License) and leave it at that. Those ratings can cost you about 4500.00-7500.00 depending on which school you end up going to, be it a small FBO or a major school like Embry Riddle, which can charge you double or even triple the costs associated with a standard general license at a small FBO. However going from 0-250 hours required for an ATP rating is out of the range of most general aviation pilots.
The costs associated with an ATP rating can be as high as 100k after completing all the required training to get there, or it could be even more depending on the school one goes to. And of course most pilots who were going for such ratings had the goal of working for the regional’s or the majors after graduation. General aviation pilots however have less training, 40 hours for general aviation licenses in most cases, which includes ground school, and those pilots are not as familiar with handling the aircraft as someone with 250 hours and instructor ratings. So in a way this new service which was hoping to compete with taxi services are probably not a very good thing. I know that I wouldn’t want to just hop in a plane with some general aviation pilot to head out cross country. They just do not have the experience of someone who has spent quality time obtaining the required training and ratings that someone with an ATP rating would have.
Even with an ATP rating that doesn’t give you anything other than school experiences, which is not real world aviation experience that comes with being a part of a regional or major airline which allows you to rack up major hours behind the yoke. So in a large way I agree with this ruling for just those reasons.
However, in a rather confusing letter, the regulator told Airpooler that its service violates the spirit of that ruling. Instead of offering a bonafide “joint venture with a common purpose,” participating pilots are “holding out to transport passengers for compensation.” That means unless you have a commercial ATP or CPL license, using those services is DOA.
Better the ruling is DOA than the hapless passenger who climbs aboard with some general aviation pilot with 30 hours flying time and 10 to 15 hours of ground school under his belt, and then ends up DOA because he thought the service was a great addition to UberX and Lyft.