An amendment sponsored by Congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), legalizes the use of digital platforms by private pilots who want to notify passengers when they have open seats. In exchange for the ride, passengers agree to share the flying expenses. The amendment states as follows:
Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall issue or revise regulations to ensure that a person who holds a private pilot certificate may communicate with the public, in any manner the person determines appropriate, to facilitate a covered flight.
The practice of pilots sharing expenses with travelers is an age old tradition. A pilot posts on a bulletin board saying they have open seats and anyone willing to share the cost of gas, food and drinks is welcome to climb on board. Pilots are not required to have a commercial license because they are simply splitting costs, not flying for profit.
In the same way ridesharing uses digital platforms to revolutionize ground transportation, a few savvy entrepreneurs designed similar technology to connect private pilots and would be air travelers. Instead of posting on a bulletin board, a pilot posts on the Internet to a much larger audience.
But in August, 2014, the FAA shut down planesharing. The regulators decried it is illegal for a pilot to give out open seats to anyone other than a friend. Because planesharing technology connects pilots to strangers the FAA believes it is a commercial enterprise and requires a commercial license.
Planesharing companies fighting the FAA ruling, such as Flytenow, believe the means of communication between pilots and potential passengers is not grounds to shut down the innovative service. The amendment is attached to the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016 (AIRR).