ANALYSIS / OPINION:
"Unfortunately, we have no choice but to switch off."
So wrote the co-founder of Flytenow, a now-defunct flight-sharing service, in 2015. The service promised to connect thousands of private pilots flying small planes as travelers travel to countless locations run by the The largest airports in the nation are not well served.
Such service would be a boon to vacationers traveling to remote beaches, lakes or mountains. But the service was founded by arbitrary government action.
The Federal Aviation Administration effectively shut down the deal by reinterpreting a decades-old agency reminder and reorganizing private carriers as "common carriers" listed on Flytenow.
The reinterpretation of the pilots subjected to the same strict regulations that apply to large commercial airlines. It was a 1
Pilots have used long bulletin boards to post upcoming flights, attracting passengers who are able to contest the flight costs. Flytenow brought this practice into the 21st century as private pilots and would-be passengers join an online network that publishes timetables.
But FAA bureaucrats decided that while corkboard postings are alright, pixel postings are unheard of.
European regulators disagree. The European Aviation Safety Agency has designed the European Union's shared-cost arrangements, which are almost identical to the FAA rules, to allow companies such as Flytenow to operate. A UK-based organization called Wingly currently maintains a community of 10,000 pilots serving 150,000 users, mainly in Western and Southern Europe.
FAA's dissenting decision has denied benefits to the entire aviation industry, private and commercial, whose numbers have fallen by more than 20 percent over the last decade. General aviation provides regional airlines with a pipeline of qualified pilots, some of whom had to cease operations due to the shortage.
The granting of a private pilot's license is expensive: about $ 9,500. The transition to commercial certification requires even more time and money. The introduction of flight sharing would help pilots reduce the cost of procuring and maintaining their certifications. Wingly has saved its members over $ 600,000 since starting operations in 2016. In addition, the service would provide much-needed choices to consumers traveling to rural or ex-urban areas, replacing costly and wasteful subsidies for these purposes. As far as security is concerned, general aviation operations are probably the safest they have ever had.
There is hope for the aviation industry. The Aviation Authorization Act (S.2650) introduced by Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, would revitalize online US flight-sharing companies, restore clarity in an obscure area of law, and spur more innovation.
The bill would adopt the FAA's traditional definition of "common carrier" and empower private pilots to share their schedules, transport real estate and up to eight people at a time, and perhaps even make an honest dollar.
The bill would not prevent the FAA from redefining joint carriage if necessary. However, it would force the Agency to do so through the regulatory procedures laid down in the Administrative Procedure Act, rather than through advice, letters and other administrative maneuvers.
The proposal would increase the market for airline participation by creating a new category "personal operator". It would allow private pilots operating only aircraft with eight or fewer seats to fly passengers or land without being subject to certain commercial airline regulations.
Existing airlines and unions may find the compensation problem controversial. But when people are prepared to accept the risks that are real or supposed to go hand in hand with FAA certified private pilots, why are they getting in the way?
The Arbitrariness of the FAA Decision and the Benefits Expected by Increasing Innovation in Flight Participation (19659003) If Congress chooses the status quo, then we can see how these benefits unfold in Europe while the Flight Sharing remains anchored in the United States.
• Michael Sargent is a political analyst specializing in transportation issues at The Heritage Foundation. John-Michael Seibler is a law clerk at the Institute for Constitutional Government of the Think Tank.