The "Uber of the Sky" Grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration


Zenon Evans wrote back in April about a really cool, helpful new service called Airpooler. As he wrote:

AirPooler allows private pilots to post listings about upcoming trips, requiring them to input important information about their own credentials and experience and their plane's weight limits. "Most pilots listing flights on AirPooler fly small single-engine piston airplanes that carry from 2 to 4 passengers," explains AirPooler. For passengers, requesting a ride is no harder than ordering a ticket on a commercial flight, and one can even send questions to the pilot beforehand….

the service regulates itself, notes BetaBoston, by "only working with pilots who are members of flying clubs like East Coast or Associated Pilots," which "have processes in place for vetting pilots, and ensuring the airworthiness of the planes."

Right now, the service lists a round-trip flight from Palo Alto, California to Sacramento this weekend for under $180. A comparable economy ticket from United Airlines with such short notice is over $800.

But the Federal Aviation Administration has never allowed private pilots to get paid to carry passengers like that; they can only theoretically be recompensed for costs. So last week, Endgaget sadly reports, the FAA put the kibosh on the service:

Thanks to a 1963 decision, such sharing is legal if done by word of mouth or a notice board, provided the pilot only asks for a fair share of the expenses. However, in a rather confusing letter, the regulator told Airpooler that its service violates the spirit of that ruling. Instead of offering a bonafide "joint venture with a common purpose," participating pilots are "holding out to transport passengers for compensation." That means unless you have a commercial ATP or CPL license, using those services is DOA.

The FAA's party-pooping letter.