Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

5 Replies

Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Britta Schroeder on Jan 21, 2019 3:59 pm

Hello AOPA community-
I recently completed my private pilot certificate, with the career goal of becoming a commercial pilot for aerial surveying. I do not want to carry passengers for hire but I do want to pay someone to serve as an assistant photogrammetrist during my flights. After discussions with CFI's and experienced commercial pilots, I am still uncertain what ratings I am required to obtain. Since I do not intend to carry any passengers for hire, but do intend to collect imagery with a person on board more than 50 NM from my departure point, I am uncertain if FAR 61.133(b)1 or any other FAR places limitations on me once I have a commerical pilot license:

61.133(b)1:
person who applies for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category or powered-lift category rating and does not hold an instrument rating in the same category and class will be issued a commercial pilot certificate that contains the limitation, “The carriage of passengers for hire in (airplanes) (powered-lifts) on cross-country flights in excess of 50 nautical miles or at night is prohibited.” The limitation may be removed when the person satisfactorily accomplishes the requirements listed in § 61.65 of this part for an instrument rating in the same category and class of aircraft listed on the person's commercial pilot certificate.

Ideally, I will obtain both an instrument rating and commercial rating during my lifetime to improve my flight skills, but in the interest of planning and savings, I would like to take the most direct route to my goal by earning the commercial pilot license first.
Is there someone in the community who has resources/references that can answer the following questions?
  • Do I need an instrument rating to conduct aerial surveys more than 50 NM from point of departure?
  • Do I need an instrument rating to carry a person that is part of the commercial operation, but does not hold any FAA certifications?
  • Are there other considerations for ratings/licenses that I should take into account as I plan my pilot training for this goal?
Thank you for your respectful comments and assistance.
Britta
 
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Re: Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Ronald Levy on Jan 22, 2019 8:14 pm

From an FAA perspective, that photogrammatist is not an FAA-required crewmember, so s/he would be a passenger.  As such, you'd need to comply with the 61.57 passenger-carrying requirements for takeoff and landing currency, but that's not the big issue here.  As I read the relevant regulations, you are not "carrying passengers for hire", which is generally interpreted to mean that the passenger is paying to be flown.  In your case, the reverse is true -- you're paying your passenger to be there.  My conclusion is that despite your lack of an instrument rating, you can do this on your basic CP ticket without either the 50nm or night restrictions.  However, being cautious about such things, I'd recommend discussing this with the local FSDO to make sure they agree, and if they don't, that they run the question past the Regional Counsel to see if there's already an interpretation on point, and if not, to get an authoritative answer from the Chief Counsel's office.

I'd also suggest discussing this with your insurer, since you're going to need a commercial insurance policy (not your standard pleasure/business policy, which doesn't cover aerial work operations like this).  You may find that the premiums might be a lot higher without you having the IR, maybe to the point that the premium difference would pay for the rating.

Re: Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Edward Poole on Jan 28, 2019 3:37 pm

I definitely would get up with the FSDO, however, might want to read this:  https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/agc/practice_areas/regulations/interpretations/data/interps/2016/Bentz%20-%20(2016)%20Legal%20Interpretation.pdf 

I am by no means a lawyer, anything that is contained in this message is for informational purposes only!

Re: Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Brennan Callan on Jan 28, 2019 4:14 pm

Hi Tom, et al.,
thanks very much for the effort to find that helpful document.  I am busy right now, but quickly skimming this document tells me I really need to read it closely.

I greatly appreciate you sharing this document.
bye
Brennan

Re: Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Dean Vorhees on Jan 28, 2019 9:31 pm

Your operation is Part 91.

Re: Instrument Rating for Aerial Surveying Commercial Flights?

Posted by Ronald Levy on Jan 29, 2019 2:55 pm

Dean Vorhees:
Your operation is Part 91.

I don't think that was ever in question, since there is no carriage of a passenger or cargo for hire.  Likewise, the interpretation letter would not come into play if Britta's  photogrammetist isn't getting out anywhere other than where she picked him/her up.  The only question is whether the day/50 and night restrictions for Commercial Pilots without an instrument rating would apply.  I think not, but I also think it's worth confirming with the local FSDO so there's no chance of them getting excited because they incorrectly have a different view of that rule from their Regional Counsel.