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Commerical activities with E-AB aircraft?

Posted By:
Todd Stovall
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#1 Posted: 3/17/2010 09:21:05 Modified: 3/18/2010 09:26:22


There was a question asked over on the AOPA Forum about aerial photography and it got me to wondering.  What is the right answer regarding compensation and operating E-AB certified aircraft?

91.319 states:
(a) No person may operate an aircraft that has an experimental certificate—
(1) For other than the purpose for which the certificate was issued; or
(2) Carrying persons or property for compensation or hire

Seems pretty cut and dried to me, but just last month there was an article in EAA Sport Aviation about skywriting and a blurp saying that except for passengers and property, commerical activities in E-AB aircraft weren't prohibited (assuming you had the proper rating, medical, etc).  But that seems to be in direct conflict with sub-para (1).  A quick serach of the forum and Homebuilder's HQ didn't provide any answers.

Any thoughts?


RV-10 N728TT (reserved), Emp/Tailcone & Wings done, working on the Fuse. Location: Dumfries, VA (suburb of DC), EAA Ch 186
Christopher Owens
Homebuilder or Craftsman
#2 Posted: 3/18/2010 21:54:43

My view on the wording of subparagraph one (1) makes it appear that it depends on the purpose for which the certificate was issued.  So, on the airworthiness certificate, what purpose it generally described?  Will the purpose say, "not for use as a skywriter"?  I've never seen an experimental airworthiness certificate, so I'll have to rely on others' certs to see what they say.


Todd Stovall
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or Craftsman
#3 Posted: 3/19/2010 07:03:26

I agree.  The E-AB cert is issued for the purpose of education and recreation.  So the actual questions are (for the purposes of 91.319), can you receive compensation for doing an activity soley for your on education and recreation or does that conflict with the intent of sub-para (1)?

I'm of the mind that it depends on whether the activity is a no kidding comerical operation (ie Joe's Skywriting Service) or Joe happens to have a smoke generator on his E-AB cert aircraft and once in awhile someone seeks him out and pays him to do skywriting as a favor (IOW he's not actively advertising his services).  I know the difference is subtle, but it's all I got.  Without a ruling from the FAA, the best I think that can be said about this is it's a gray area.

RV-10 N728TT (reserved), Emp/Tailcone & Wings done, working on the Fuse. Location: Dumfries, VA (suburb of DC), EAA Ch 186
Joe Norris
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberYoung Eagles Pilot or VolunteerHomebuilder or CraftsmanAirVenture Volunteer
#4 Posted: 3/19/2010 07:34:42


Since you referenced the thread over on the AOPA board, I am including here my entire reply to that thread:


The issue that has the potential to torpedo this type of use of the aircraft is the aircraft's certification purpose. If you read the operating limitations that are issued as a part of the aircraft's airworthiness certificate you'll find the following language:

"No person may operate this aircraft for other than the purpose of meeting the requirements of § 91.319(b) during phase I flight testing, and for recreation and education after meeting these requirements as stated in the program letter (required by § 21.193) for this aircraft."

This is the specific certification purpose of the aircraft. The first part of this statement says that the purpose is to meet the requirements of the initial flight testing (§ 91.319(b)) and then it goes on to say that the aircraft is certificated for "education and recreation".

Since operating the aircraft for any business-related purpose could be deemed outside the realm of "education and recreation" the FAA could cite the operator if the aircraft is used for aerial photography if the pictures are being sold, or for any sort of business related travel. (EDIT: Or for skywriting for hire)

I do not know of any case where the FAA has pursued this angle of enforcement, but the potential exists. Forewarned is forearmed.


Having said all that, it is important to note that amateur-built aircraft have been used openly and notoriously for hire in the airshow industry.  While many of the aircraft used for airshows are standard category, and many more are experimental exhibition, there are a number of these aircraft that are certificated as amateur-built.  As mentioned above, I know of no case where the FAA has pursued enforcement action against any amateur-built aircraft for operation outside its certification purpose.  But be aware that the potential exists for such action.



Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate
John Logan
#5 Posted: 12/4/2010 23:47:38

(re: Airshow Pilots operating experimental aircraft for hire)


If the commercial operation does not carry a "person or property" for hire (airshow pilots do not), does this meet the letter of the law and is therefore allowed?

Is this the FAA rationale for allowing airshow pilots to use experimental aircraft for commercial purposes?

Would other commercial purposes that do not carry "persons or property" for hire, like perhaps wildlife surveys, or photography using a remote camera operated by the pilot (no passengers on board).

I know that Aircam has been used to film for television and to produce aerial photographs for books, what allows them to do so?