Commercial Certificate Not Required—Part 2

July 25th, 2014 by Jack Olcott


Responders to last month’s blog in this space noted that companies often prohibit the use of personal aircraft by employees for business transportation. Other readers lamented that many employers allowing the use of a GA aircraft on company travel establish policies that are so restrictive that few private pilots can comply. In my opinion, outright bans as well as nearly impossible provisions that are de facto rejections of employee use of owned or rented aircraft for business travel simply reflect an uninformed bias against an efficient and safe form of travel.


Employees who have demonstrated their proficiency by earning a Private Pilot’s certificate with an instrument rating should be allowed to conduct business travel just as they are allowed to use their personal car for such trips. Use of employee-owned or rented aircraft increases employee productivity, provides more efficient use of travel time compared with use of a personal car, and is not a risk to shareholders or private owners of the company. Furthermore, such travel is safe.


The argument about which form of travel—via car or private aircraft—is safer need not be debated in this forum. Personally, I prefer to travel via GA.   As pilot–in-command, I have more control over my response to factors influencing safety, such as unacceptable weather conditions or personal fatigue or the actions of third parties. I suspect that I am far more likely to overestimate my ability to deal with challenging safety factors when travel by car than by an aircraft I am piloting. Also, the probability of being the victim of another person’s error is significantly less when flying my own aircraft than when driving my own or a rented car.


Good governance demands that Boards establish travel policies, and efficient governance dictates that all forms of travel, including use of personal aircraft, should be allowed. Motivation for such a policy should be obtaining the maximum productivity from employees and time—not protection against travel-related mishaps. Companies simply do not have the ability to assure that an employee will follow procedure. Nor will an injured party be discouraged from pursuing the deep pockets of the employer should there be a mishap, regardless of what policies are in-place.


All companies, public or private, should obtain liability coverage to protect the firm from errors made by employees and by unaffiliated third parties. For example, a company is well advised to have non- owner liability insurance for car and aircraft. Having a policy prohibiting an employee from traveling on company business in his or her car or aircraft is not sufficient protection should there be an accident.


A company might require employees using a personal aircraft on business to carry a certain level of liability insurance and name the employer as an additional insured. But company-imposed limits should be reasonable. Surprisingly, such liability coverage is not prohibitively expensive.


There is no rational excuse for refusing to treat a personal aircraft for business travel differently from using a personal car. Requiring ground travel when a private aircraft is available is simply a waste of time and an example of poor management.

Jack Olcott

Jack Olcott is president of General Aero Co. and past president of the National Business Aviation Association. Olcott has a rich history in aviation, including working as a flight instructor and flight research specialist, leading aviation media properties for McGraw-Hill, and serving on various advisory boards and councils. His current activities involve advocating the advantages of business aviation domestically as well as internationally. Olcott has more than 8,500 hours of flight time and type ratings in a Learjet, Citation I and II, Dassault Falcon 50/900, and Beech Model 300/1900.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • John Ylinen

    I am glad Mr Olcott and AOPA are finally understanding this problem with business professionals being denied the use of GA aircraft by their large employers. I have tried multiple times to get AOPA to lead an effort to change the minds of these employers. Mr. Olcott as NBAA President did nothing to address this issue. Guess it is better late then never. The issue of liability and lawyers going after the deepest pockets is causing all of the businesses to take protective measures. AOPA again has done little to colales the aircraft insurance organizations to address this matter. If this ban were reversed, there are many professionals in business that would buy and use GA aircraft to accomplish more for their employers during the business week and then have the aircraft to use with their families on vacations and weekends. These are high income people that could afford aircraft ownership. Come on AOPA, it is one thing to BLOG about it. It is another to address the problem.

  • Crop Loss

    I worked for a large oil company now part of a larger oil company for 13 years. There were several key and not so key R & D and sales employees who owned airplanes (including me) and regularly flew them on company business. We proved the value to management in terms of both time and cost savings and the ability to access rural locations that simply had no commercial service and or were long driving distances. The only requirement was to list the company as an also insured. Over a span of at least 25 years we had no incidences and saved the company lots of costs and substantially improved efficiency. There was simply no down side.

  • Roger M. Morgenthal

    As a lawyer with an aviation practice, I have assisted many business clients in developing a policy for the use of personal aircraft by employees for company business, and I strongly support such use. However, the policy must extend to cover several other matters: coordination of the employee’s aviation insurance with the employer’s policies; requiring other employees to fly with the pilot in the personal aircraft on business (or the choice of opting out); and whether or not clients of the business should be carried as passengers. Part 135 issues must be considered, particularly as to reimbursement of costs for the aircraft use. I also provide that the employer must be given copies of current aircraft insurance policies, along with information showing current medical certificate, BFR and instrument/night currency.

    • Alan Jensen

      My son is a school district superintendent and must fly (AK) to visit schools in his district. The schools counsel has advised the board. to to allow him to fly himself on any of these visits causing the district to charter airplanes. Can you be retained to work with the school board and their attorney to work on a better solution than blanket denial of private aircraft usage?

      • Roger M. Morgenthal

        Yes, I would be pleased to assist with that. What is the best way for us to make contact to discuss this?

  • Richard Harder

    I completely agree with the spirit of the article. However, I work in the insurance industry and at least a few times a year I will get a call from a Risk Manager with an inquiry: “We have an employee who wishes to pilot his OWN AIRPLANE for travel. Are we covered for that? If not,
    how much does it cost to cover that exposure?” Answering the Risk Manager’s question takes some legwork but usually my response is “No” and “A Lot”. In evaluating this issue numerous times over the years for companies both large and small, public and private, here are the issues
    that surface time and time again:

    – General Liability policies exclude aviation
    – Workers Compensation policies either exclude employees acting as pilot or crewmember of a private aircraft, or the carrier will no longer accept the risk
    – Company Health Insurance Policies exclude employees acting as pilot or crewmember of a private aircraft
    – Company sponsored Group Life Insurance excludes employees acting as pilot or crewmember of a private aircraft

    Of course, anything can be covered – for a price. This is no different, and coverage for these exposures can be bought back, or stand alone policies can purchased to cover the additional aviation risk.

    There are two problems that generally arise with this approach:
    1. Cost. Often the existing insurers are unable to include the aviation exposure which requires a change in carriers, and
    2. Low limits of liability. While many corporations might enjoy $100M of non owned automobile liability as a “throw in” on their current insurance program, try getting that for employee use of non owned aircraft. It’s not necessarily expensive but the limits are often capped to $5M or
    $10M which can be insignificant for corporations of some size.

    I have only seen employee travel on personal, private aircraft work in these cases:

    1) The employee making the request is also the owner or very high ranking C level exec
    2) The business is “in the business” of aviation and is supportive of employees flying aircraft
    3) The business already has a corporate flight department of some size and their corporate aviation underwriters agree to include the employee flown exposure on that policy
    4) The business just does not know or does not care that they have an uninsured aviation exposure (often small businesses)

    My point being there are some significant and expensive insurance hurdles for corporations that want to allow their employees to travel by private aircraft. It is all doable, but only the corporation
    can decide if the costs are acceptable.

    • Grant J Farmer

      We know insurance runs from an aviation like the plague, but WHY?

      Other than a silly notion of how dangerous aviation, what actual facts support the idea that driving is safer than flying?

      What facts show that the monitary loss is greater for aviation accidents vs auto accidents?

      Insurance controls our lives, we get that. How about getting out of the 60’s era and stop acting like a private airplane is a death sentence that will kill 300 school children with each and every crash.

    • John Ylinen

      Mr. Harder,
      Maybe you can educate the community. Why do all of those policies ONLY exclude Private Airplanes and NOT motorcycles? Statistics show that Motorcycles travel is more dangerous than private aircraft. The facts are clear and AOPA has done nothing to gather facts and education the market. Trial lawyers have found that aircraft litigation is far more favorable. The reason is simple, juries are not informed about flying. They know about driving. Trial lawyers can not get awards against employers generally, because juries know accidents are the fault of the driver and not the company generally. The recent FEDEX traffic accident is an outlier. There also is no way to protect the employer generally and limit their exposure. It would be an interesting AOPA study to determine the number of people that this effects or could effect if the prohibition were removed. Lets be conservative. What if this impacted 50,000 employees in the country. What if 50,000 people could be potential customers to buy an aircraft if they could use the aircraft for business. Just think if the SEP market could have 50,000 customer for product in a year or 5. This is why it is important. Now not all of those will buy NEW aircraft and some may partner with other pilots, but what GA needs are new highly compensated professionals that could see the value of a private aircraft. Look at CIrrus marketing. Cirrus LIfestyle. You think that is an accident? They are selling aircraft to individuals that can use the aircraft for business and see the time machine value. Using it as part of your job and then using it in the free time increases the value by 2X at least. So AOPA, would you like to have 50,000 new members or lose another 50,000 due to age and losing their medicals?

      • Richard Harder

        You only need to watch the news to see why general insurers run from aviation — the losses are infrequent but when they do occur they are sensational and extremely costly. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to price the risk adequately and allow for an equal spread of risk to other policyholders who do not have aviation exposures.

        Consider it from the insurer’s perspective. They have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of policyholders, and the reality is very few of their clients ask for coverage to include aviation exposures. It is easier for the insurers to decline the handful of risks that might approach them with aviation exposures than to go through the regulatory burden of rewriting policy forms for the insurance commissioner in each State, renegotiating with their re-insurers to now include aviation, retraining their staff to know the difference between IFR and VFR and the difference between a 40 year old Cherokee and a brand new TBM, and then increasing their premiums on all policyholders so that the rare but costly aviation claim can be funded.

        I agree the reality is we need MORE pilots and aircraft owners. Cirrus is a great example – many of their customers are not buying airplanes to exercise their passion for GA – it is simply efficient travel from point A to B. They are probably not even AOPA members. I guarantee if the phone was ringing off the hook at the insurance companies to have these exposures covered then the insurance community would respond.

      • NotChuck

        What if 50,000 customers boycotted companies who refuse to let their employees fly GA aircraft on business trips?

  • Charles Andrew Seitz

    I attempted to get my employer to allow me to use a rented aircraft for business travel several months ago and hit a brick wall made up of lawyers and insurance men. My manager and the CEO were both in favor, but when they asked the opinion of the attorneys and the liability insurance company, the answer they got was a resounding “NO!”. The liability insurance premium for the company was going to triple and the attorneys were convinced that there was nothing they could do to indemnify the company against my possible, though improbable, misdeeds in an airplane. I was flat out told that if I killed someone on the highway they would be protected but if I killed someone by crashing into their house in an airplane they could be sued out of business.

    There seems to be a need to not only educate employers about the value of GA but the liability insurance industry as well.

  • jim denike

    if someone expects to fly on company business, the least the company should expect is for the pilot to be INSTRUMENT-RATED. Far better, the pilot should have at least 500 hours and 50 actual IFR. At that point, the insurance companies might be able to bend a bit. Of course, the COM license – far less crucial to safety than the IFR ticket – could make the whole operation insurable and far more feasible. Seeing things from the insurer’s side of the equation, there is a very steep drop off in risk after an active pilot has gotten his wings wet for a couple of years in varying weather conditions.

  • Former Park Ranger

    I’ve dealt successfully with this issue for years. The key is to negotiate use of General Aviation aircraft up front before you take a job. My last couple of employers have simply asked their insurance underwriters to cover my business flying under the company’s umbrella policy. Given my level of experience, the underwriters have been happy to do that. I list the company as an additional insured under my aviation policy, and that in turn triggers coverage under the company’s umbrella policy. Most companies or organizations of any size have big umbrella policies (worth $25-$50 million or so) and no matter what you may hear from the insurance industry, in reality it’s pretty easy for the underwriters to shoehorn employee flying into those policies if they’re motivated to do so.

    However, the key is to negotiate permission to use your aircraft on business up front, before you accept a position. If you take a job and later try to obtain permission to use your airplane on business, it’s all too easy for the CFO or risk manager to “just say no,” even if it would be relatively straightforward for them to secure coverage. Most of these folks don’t know aviation and they’re afraid of the liability involved. It takes a lot to educate them and it helps if the company leadership tells them to make it happen!

  • JO Taylor

    In the last paragraph, “for refusing” should be deleted.

  • Songbird

    I was working as a Charter Rep for a Major International Airline and traveling every week end to another station other then my Base. I had been using my personal Aircraft for months and then one day they said I could no longer use my personal aircraft to go to and from work. It was so much more productive and I would use it to transfer lost baggage , Ticket receipts and supplies needed quickly and efficiently .

    Their only concern was if I inadvertantly crashed into a 747 on approach they would be held responsible even know when I drove my car to and from this work station I was considered off the clock and would be covered under transportation to and from work.

    Made no since to me and I felt their imaginations were getting the best of them so rather fight it I just ceased and drove my car and framed the letter they gave me about using my private aircraft from a company that was in the business of transporting millions of passengers a year by air for decades.

  • avei

    When negotiating my present position, I told the company that if I were to accept a rural position,the sine qua non condition for accepting the offer was not salary, not benefits, not perks, but the ability to use my C182 for travel to/from meetings. This condition was agreed to, and
    the job accepted. After 4 years, I was told that the “workers’ compensation fund” included a new clause which excluded crew of private aircraft from worker’s compensation, and I could no longer use my aircraft for company meetings. My response was, “a deal is a deal.” They responded that I could continue to use the aircraft if I were to obtain insurance “satisfactory to them,” i.e., a $5M policy and indemnification.

    I can easily get and carry $1M smooth at a modest cost (4300 hours, 1100 night, 430 actual instru., Comm. IA, ASEL/S, AMEL, Part 135 letter from younger days, Class II medical, ie, well qualified and current). The company is a “named insured.” I was told that only a $5M policy would do, which would cost roughly 10 times the cost of my current insurance, and double what I paid when the plane was on a Pt 135 Certificate. My attorney’s comment was a deal is a deal and that the agreement for the use of the aircraft was a material component of the deal, and the company is not allowed to unilaterally change the deal. Since the convenience/necessity of flying (40 min v. 3 hour drive) is part of the job, and my local operations (completely not aviation) must stop when I am not physically present, I continue to fly, knowing I am not covered by their workers’ comp policy, about which I could care less because I am adequately insured, should there be an aircraft incident and with the full blessing of my attorney.

    It is sheer insanity that a WORKERS’ COMPENSATION insurance company should in any way be able to dictate a company policies in a manner that has absolutely no impact on them and their actuarial risks. This policy has benefited the airlines, however. When I travel interstate, I now buy
    walk up, first class, fully refundable/changeable tickets at costs in excess of several thousand dollars, to accommodate the company’s insane policy, as they have agreed that that is approximate commercial equivalent to using my own airplane for travel.

    I did discuss this with AOPA and got ZERO effective response, even though this insurance company issue has the potential to further reduce the usefulness of general aviation when it can most benefit GA operator/owners, companies and customers.

  • Rationalista2

    A company has the right to dictate how you represent them to the public – this includes how you travel. If the company doesn’t want to put themselves in a position of liability because of a possibility of a employee’s piloting mistakes causing an accident on a business trip, then that’s their prerogative.

    Act like grownups for a change and realize that life has rules – if you don’t like them, start your own business or go somewhere where there’s not any rules…

    • gnagyusa .

      That’s exactly what I did.
      I left my large employer to start my own business.
      In the end it comes down to a balance. Corporations need to consider if it’s worth losing good employees over this issue.
      In this day and age, I’d rather get some extra corporate insurance than lose a good engineer, who’s been with the company for a long time.
      I may be biased, but the pilots I’ve met tended to be some of the best employees (attention to detail, discipline, tech skills etc.).

  • gnagyusa .

    Good article and good points.

    My former employer (Sony) initially turned a blind eye over people flying private aircraft, but later on, flat out banned it (well, tried), with no good explanation (no, nothing happened).
    Of course, it didn’t stop me from flying myself and an occasional co-worker to work-related conferences, but it felt very unfair that they would not even reimburse me for the cheapest equivalent airline ticket.
    To think that, on those same trips, some people spent more on alcohol during business dinners than it cost me to get to the conference, and the company had no problem reimbursing the former, infuriated me.
    This ended up being one of the many reasons I decided to leave.

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  • DrMack911

    There are plenty of businesses that DO allow it but private pilots are prohibited from accepting expense reimbursements if they carry passengers or property [14 CFR 61.113(b)(2)]. There is a grassroots campaign currently underway that is trying to change that. Here is a link to the blog that explains it all:

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