Flytenow, the Uber-style flight-sharing service that the FAA shut down last year for allegedly acting as a de facto conduit for illegal air charter activity, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the decision.
Flytenow’s website lets private pilots post upcoming trips that travelers can then arrange to ride along on provided they help pay for the fuel and other expenses. Under FAA cost-sharing rules established many decades ago, the practice is perfectly legal — until you try to use a website to make such arrangements, that is.
“This is a classic case of government overreaction to new technologies and innovative ideas,” said Jon Riches, an attorney for Flytenow. “Instead of updating regulations to reflect the way Americans communicate today, the FAA is stifling innovation and silencing pilots who want to use the Internet to communicate their travel plans.”
Flytenow contends that all its website is doing is making it easier for pilots to connect with passengers willing to pay the pro-rata share of flight expenses, the same as people have done for years in face-to-face conversations or by using bulletin boards at the local airport.
The FAA disagrees that Flytenow’s service, as well as another called AirPooler, are simply modern equivalents of such arrangements. In the 1980s, the agency points out, it shut down a similar start-up service that essentially sought to do the same thing using a toll free 1-800 number.
Now it will be up to a judge to decide whether Flytenow can resume operations or if its flight-sharing dreams will be forever quashed.
“All we’re asking is for the FAA to bring its regulations in line with the times so that new ideas in the aviation industry can take off,” said Flytenow’s lawyer.
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