Ask the DAR

Using an Experimental for commercial photography, aircraft bill of sale.

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Question: Can I use my Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft for commercial aerial photography or survey? I’m not referring to taking a photographer/passenger on board, but me alone flying and taking photos.

I asked the AOPA legal team this question, spoke to an attorney who is on EAA’s Legal Advisory Board, and have asked other knowledgeable avaiation authorities and essentially get the same answer: “Nothing expressly prohibits it, but nothing expressly permits it either. You could call the FSDO, but…”

After reading your column in the January 2014 issue, I wondered if a DAR with function code 46 can amend my operating limitations to specifically allow commercial aerial photography?

Also, if I reapplied for a new airworthiness certificate using form 8130-6 for Restricted/Aerial Survey, would it likely be approved?

Lastly, how does the FAA interpret “recreation and education” in operating limitations? Is recreation in the eye of the beholder? Does education pertain exclusively to the functioning of aircraft, or can I educate others about geology by taking photos from an airplane?

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Answer: Although the consensus may vary between FSDOs, the answer I’ve received from my FSDO and the DAR instructors in Oklahoma City is as follows:

“If using the aircraft is coincidental to the photography, then it is OK. However if using the aircraft is essential to the type of photography, then it is considered commercial use of the aircraft and would not be allowed.

“The operating limitations cannot be amended to allow commercial photography. While the operating limitations may be amended to add restrictions needed for safety, they may not be loosened to allow for additional types of operations.”

The definition of “recreation and education” primarily pertains to you personally, not to educate others. Reapplying for a new airworthiness certificate under “Restricted/Aerial Survey” would not likely be approved as an Experimental/ Amateur-Built aircraft does not fit within the Restricted category.

Question: I built an ELSA from hand-written plans from Johnson Aviation. It is a J-3 Cub look-alike with a bigger motor than called for. I did not perform an annual inspection because of high heat in my hangar, well over 110 degrees.

Are there any papers that have to be filled out before selling this plane? I would like to sell it as is. Can the new buyer do the annual and fly the aircraft as is?

Answer: The aircraft may be sold as is by simply filling out and executing an aircraft bill of sale. Since the aircraft is Experimental/Amateur-Built, the new owner will not be eligible for the repairman certificate allowing him to perform the condition inspection. Only the original builder, if he holds the repairman certificate for that particular aircraft, or a certified A&P mechanic may perform the annual condition inspection.

Please send your questions for DAR Asberry to editorial@kitplanes.com with “Ask the DAR” in the subject line.


Mel Asberry is an experienced Designated Airworthiness Representative specializing in Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft. He and his wife, Ann, have built seven amateur-built airplanes including two ultralight types, a Moni Motorglider, a Dragonfly Mk2, two RV-6s and a Zenair CH 601HDS. They are currently building a scratch-built biplane.

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