The questions posed by the fatal ditching in January of a Piper Malibu which took the lives of pilot David Ibbotson and newly-signed Cardiff City footballer Emiliano Sala have prompted the CAA to attempt to clarify what’s legal and what’s not

‘Cost-sharing flights are flights shared by private individuals,’ it says. ‘The “cost-shared” part is in reference to the costs of the specific flight which can be shared only between the pilot and others on board the aircraft. These costs are the “direct costs”, which are the costs directly incurred in relation to a specific flight (e.g. fuel, airfield charges, rental fee for an aircraft).

There can be no element of profit for the pilot as these flights are not commercial, and if profit is suspected, then the flight might be operating outside of the regulations and therefore be illegal. The pilot must pay a contribution to these direct costs.

‘The safety and conduct of any flight, including cost-shared flights, is the responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft [who] must conduct the flight in accordance with the applicable regulation for non-commercial flights with light aircraft by private pilots. It is also the pilot’s responsibility to ensure that the flight is appropriately insured, although passengers may want to check that any personal life, accident and/or health insurance they have is valid for non-commercial flights.

‘Passengers should be made aware that the pilot may amend or cancel the flight for any reason, including at short notice, and that the proportion of the costs must be shared by the pilot. If the flight does not take place, then no remuneration (money or exchange of gifts) should be exchanged between pilot and passengers. Passengers are not taking part in a commercial flight, but in a leisure flight with a private pilot [and] the pilot has a duty not to undertake flight if the conditions are not suitable.

‘Where cost-shared flights are arranged through online platforms the CAA recommends the use of only websites that have signed up to the European Aviation Safety Agency charter. Platforms that have signed up to this charter support the provision of appropriate information to both pilots and passengers and help to ensure that cost-shared flights are conducted within the scope of the regulation.

‘Commercial aviation in large passenger carrying aircraft has now achieved exceptional safety standards… The safety of non-commercial light aircraft is more comparable to other recreational activities than the much higher standard achieved in commercial aviation. It is recommended that any promotion of cost-sharing, and conversations with pilots providing flights, should inform potential passengers of the safety levels of GA flights with light aircraft as compared to those of commercial flying.

‘European and national regulation states that pilots are allowed to share flights as long as the aircraft does not carry more than five passengers in addition to the pilot. Furthermore, costs can only be shared – pilots are not allowed to make any profit on the flight. Because cost shared flights remain private, the pilot does not need a CPL to share the cost with passengers. Flying with strangers opens new potential issues ranging from security and personal safety to insurance implications. To help pilots understand the pros and cons of cost-sharing with strangers we have produced CAP 1589 Cost-sharing flights – GA Guide (at:

‘Ultimately, the clear intention of the cost-sharing rules is to allow pilots to fly more – building skills and experience – while sharing their passion for aviation with others. Providing passengers and pilots understand and stick to the rules, then that intention can become a reality.

‘European and National regulations permit cost sharing as follows:

– The flight is a cost-shared flight by private individuals. Cost-sharing flights cannot form part of a business activity through an organisation.

– The direct costs of the flight must be shared between all of the occupants of the aircraft, including the pilot, up to a maximum of six persons.

– The cost-sharing arrangements apply to any other-than complex motor-powered EASA aircraft and this includes aircraft registered outside of the EASA area but operated by an operator established or residing in the Community.

– Cost-sharing is also permitted in non-EASA (Annex I of the Basic Regulation (EU) 2018/1139) aircraft registered in the UK.

‘Direct costs mean the costs directly incurred in relation to a flight (e.g. fuel, airfield charges, rental fee for an aircraft). There can be no element of profit. Annual costs cannot be included in the cost sharing. These are the cost of keeping, maintaining, insuring and operating the aircraft over a period of one calendar year. There can be no element of profit.

‘In the case of a jointly-owned aircraft, the CAA considers the hourly rate, normally payable by a joint owner for use of their aircraft, to be a “direct cost”. Cost-shared flights can be advertised, including the use of online “flight sharing” platforms. It is recommended that any advertising or promotion of cost-sharing flights makes it clear that they are private arrangements and not conducted in accordance with commercial air transport or, where appropriate, public transport rules.

‘Passengers should be made aware that the pilot may amend or cancel the flight for any reason, including at short notice. The proportion of the costs that must be shared by the pilot is not specified in the regulations. However, the pilot must make a contribution to the direct costs of the flight that he is conducting.’

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