Utah Senator Calls for a New Class of Pilot

Ride-sharing legislation would skirt Part 135 guidelines.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, pictured at a 2015 event, introduced the Aviation Empowerment Act to create a new class of pilot in relation to cost-sharing flight services.Sen. Mike Lee/Facebook

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) says, “Innovation is key to competition and accessibility.” The Utah senator yesterday introduced new legislation he calls the Aviation Empowerment Act. Should the act become law, Lee says it would create a new class of pilot by tightly defining a few key FAA terms as they relate to a contemporary transportation concept, cost-sharing services. Think Uber-like services using airplanes with fewer than eight seats. Specifically, Lee wants to redefine the phrases “common carrier” and “personal operator.”

The legislation would redefine how pilots might transport passengers aboard aircraft for compensation, but avoid FAR Part 119 (air carrier) or Part 135 (commuter) guidelines. Lee's revised interpretations envision allowing individuals to market their cost-sharing services to the public, while avoiding the need to be named a common carrier. Lee also believes these new services could be conducted operating under Part 91.

Even if Lee’s legislation were to become law, however, there would still be a considerable amount of work involved in translating the spirit of the law into a pragmatic implementation of such an airborne cost sharing program. Stay tuned.