by Greg Reigel
Copyright 2019. All Rights Reserved
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2019 issue
If you own an aircraft and are not utilizing it as much as you would like, or if you would like to try and recover some of the cost of owning the aircraft, you may have thought about renting your aircraft to other pilots. As a practical matter, that makes some sense. But before you actually rent your aircraft to another pilot, here are a few things you should consider.
Aircraft Owners May Rent Their Aircraft To Third Parties
It is important to understand that the FAA does not prohibit aircraft owners from renting their aircraft. In fact, the regulations specifically contemplate rental arrangements. So, renting your aircraft is permitted, provided that you comply with applicable regulations. The FAA provides guidance on what is and isn’t a permissible rental arrangement in Advisory Circular 91-37B Truth in Leasing (although truth in leasing requirements only apply to large civil aircraft, the general lease concepts discussed in the AC apply to leasing arrangements for all aircraft).
Make Sure Your Insurance Permits Aircraft Rental
Most aircraft insurance policies will extend coverage to other pilots who fly your aircraft provided that the pilots are either expressly identified in your policy or if they have the necessary experience/qualifications to meet the “open pilot” clause of the policy. However, if you are going to charge the pilot for use of your aircraft, you need to confirm that your policy allows you to rent or lease your aircraft to a third-party. Most aircraft policies issued to owners for personal/business flying do allow aircraft leasing, but it is important to confirm this with your insurance underwriter.
Also, rather than paying to obtain their own insurance policy or renter’s insurance to cover their use of your aircraft, most renter pilots will want to be named as an additional insured under your policy, as this can oftentimes be done at no cost to you or the renter pilot. In that case, renters will typically ask for a certificate of insurance that reflects not only that they are added to your policy, but that they are covered for their operation and use of the aircraft. This is important because it doesn’t do the renter pilot any good if he or she is added to the owner’s policy but only covered for the owner’s operation of the aircraft, rather than his or her own use.
Renting Your Aircraft Can Trigger Tax Consequences
In most states, when an aircraft owner rents an aircraft to a third-party, the owner is required to collect and remit sales tax on the rent paid by the third-party for the aircraft. If you are in one of those states, in order to rent your aircraft, you will need to obtain a sales tax number so you can collect and remit sales tax to the taxing authority. This is the aircraft owner’s obligation and the taxing authority will hold the aircraft owner responsible for any sales tax the taxing authority believes the aircraft owner should have collected and remitted, regardless of whether the renter pilot actually paid the sales tax to the aircraft owner.
Also, when you rent your aircraft, many taxing authorities view that activity as commercial activity, which then means your aircraft could be subject to assessment of personal property tax on the value of the aircraft, or some portion of the value based upon the pro-rata rental versus personal use of the aircraft. Although not all states assess personal property tax on aircraft, if you are in a state that does, you will want to determine your potential property tax exposure before you decide to rent your aircraft.
Although you will also have other things to consider as you decide whether to rent your aircraft to other pilots, these three issues should be near the top of your list. And if you understand and address these issues up front, that will help ensure a successful aircraft rental experience for both you, the aircraft owner, and your renter pilot.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Greg Reigel is an attorney with Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, LLP, and represents clients throughout the country in aviation and business law matters. For assistance, call 214-780-1482, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or Twitter @ReigelLaw.