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6 Ways You Can Get Paid to Fly as a Private Pilot

Cessna Private Pilot Trainer Instrument Panel

You can do more than most people believe with nothing but a Private Pilot Certificate. The general consensus is that you cannot be paid to fly unless you hold a commercial pilot license. While this is mostly true there are several scenarios in which you can be compensated to fly with only a private pilot certificate.  We’ll go into these in detail as we cover what you can do with a private pilot license.

Taking Passengers

The main benefit of obtaining a private pilot license is it grants you the ability to carry passengers. This means you can take your family and fly across the country if you would like. And that sure beats a road trip!. As an added benefit your passengers can pay for their share of the flight expenses pro rata. This means if you have 3 passengers on the flight and each person pays their share you can make the flight and only have to pay 25% of the total costs. These costs include items such as aircraft rental costs, fuel, oil, and airport charges.

As the pilot you have to pay at least your share of the expenses except as follows below.

Being Compensated to Fly as a Private Pilot

According to most, you may not fly for compensation or hire as a private pilot. However 14 CFR 61.113(a) reads as follow: “Except as provided in paragraphs (b) through (h) of this section, no person who holds a private pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire; nor may that person, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft.”

That part “Except as provided in paragraphs(b) through (h)” makes the rest of paragraph (a) not applicable. Meaning we need to look at the items listed in paragraphs (b) through (h) to see the limitations for those specific paragraphs. 

You Can Be Compensated to Fly For Business

14 CFR 61.113(b) Reads: A private pilot may, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment if:

(1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and

(2) The aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.”

So once you have your private pilot license you can be compensated to fly for business use and the business can also cover the entire expenses for the flight. This also applies for employers paying employees to fly.  

The flight must be incidental to the business, meaning you were “going anyway” but chose to fly rather than drive. So if you need to meet an important client in person your business or employer is allowed to hire and compensate you to fly to the client as a private pilot. 

To be paid as a private pilot however, the aircraft cannot be used to carry passengers or property for compensation or hire. So for this use it can only be used for personal transportation.

You have to make sure to follow the regulations closely on this use, and you cannot be compensated for moving people or equipment. 

This is the most common and most applicable case for being compensated as a private pilot to fly but their are other cases as well.

You Can Fly For a Charity

You may fly for a charity under just a private pilot certificate. For example a charity that holds a raffle for a free flight where the proceeds go to a specific cause or when a charity organization sells a pancake breakfast plus flight. 

While the passenger is technically paying for the flight there is an exception, allowing the flight to be carried out by the holder of a private pilot certificate who has accumulated at least 500 hours. 

There are some strict requirements that must be met to do this type of flying which can be found here: 14 CFR 91.146.

Angel Flight is a common charity private pilot’s fly for that helps provide medical transportation for those in need. Pilot’s donate their time, fuel, and aircraft expenses and Angel Flight connects patients seeking transportation. It’s an awesome cause, so be sure to check them out!

You Can Perform Search and Rescue

An aircraft operator may be reimbursed for fuel, oil, airport expenditures, and rental fees directly associated with search and rescue operations provided the flight is sanctioned under the control of a local, state, or federal agency, or an organization that conducts search and rescue operations. 

Civil Air Patrol is one of the most common organizations that participates in search and rescue operations. You can join before you even have your pilot’s license. They often provide training and aircraft rental at reduced rates for their members as well. 

You Can Perform Demo Flights for Aircraft Sales

Do you work as an aircraft sales person? If so, even if you are only a private pilot you may be paid to perform demonstration flights to prospective customers. You simply need to have logged a minimum of 200 hours total flight time. 

This also means you don’t have to cover your share of costs to operate the aircraft as you would be exempt per 14CFR 61.113(f)

You Can Tow Gliders

Also per 14CFR 16.113(g) you are not required to pay for your share of expenses and may be compensated to fly aircraft towing a glider or unpowered ultralight vehicle. 

While this may be done by only holding a private pilot certificate, you must meet the following requirements: 

You must have logged at least 100 hours as pilot in command in the same category class and type of aircraft that will be used to tow the glider or ultralight vehicle. 

You must receive ground and flight training from an authorized instructor on the specific techniques and procedures related to towing aircraft.

You Can Perform Flight Tests in Light-Sport Aircraft

You may also be compensated as a private pilot while performing production flights tests in a light sport aircraft intended for certification provided the aircraft is a powered parachute or weight shift control aircraft, you hold at least 100 hours as pilot in command in the same category and class of aircraft, and you are familiar with the processes and procedures applicable to the conduct of production flight testing, to include operations conducted under a special flight permit and any associated operating limitations.


There you have it, 6 ways you can be compensated as a private pilot or at least possibly escape having to pay for your share of the flight expenses.

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