What are the rules for flying cars?

March 21, 2016

Although the concept of a flying car is almost as old as cars themselves, the actual use of flying cars for business is still relatively unexplored.  Now that flying cars are becoming available, it might be wise to talk about what rules would come into play when using one. So let’s take care of answering the basic questions regarding this.

Q: Will flying cars be allowed to fly?

A: Flying cars have already flown, and their numbers will continue to increase.  For all aircraft, the governing body in the US is the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA encourages expanded use of General Aviation (GA) and most countries seem to follow suit.  (GA is aviation relating to private, non-commercial, non-military aircraft.)

To fly, one simply registers the flying car with the FAA, and is given an N number which serves the same function as a car’s license plate.  Since flying cars operate the same in the air as other aircraft, the FAA treats them exactly the same way.

Q: Will you need a special license to operate a flying car?

A: Flying cars will require two license, one for the ground and one for the air.  On the ground one will need a motorcycle or automobile driver’s license.  In the air, the operator will be required to have a pilot’s license, either a Light Sport or Private Pilot Certificate, depending on the particular flying car one has.  No new licenses are required.

Q: Can flying cars be used for commercial purposes?

A: On the ground, absolutely they can be, without restriction.  In the air, the amount and type of use depends on the class of registration of the vehicle. There are three major types of aircraft registration in the United States.

1. Light Sport Aircraft – commercial use allows for flight training, and flying yourself and an associate on business trips.

2. Certified Aircraft – ferrying company staff and company products is allowed, but carrying passengers or cargo for hire requires special licensing, pilot training, and vehicle maintenance.  A professional pilot can be utilized, and the aircraft can be owned or leased by the company.

3. Experimental / Home Built Aircraft – vehicles like the Switchblade are found in this class.  Flying yourself and an associate, plus any company gear or product is allowed, if it’s the pilot’s plane.  Experimental aircraft cannot be leased.

Q: Who pays for the use the use of the flying car?

A: On the ground, any agreement can be made for compensation of use. In the air, this is more an issue of company policy than anything else.  The company can choose to pay a mileage fee based on driving, or may reimburse the flying car owner for actual costs.  Some companies forbid employees from flying personal aircraft, so check with your company. A company-owned Experimental aircraft needs to meet the operations limitations for this class of aircraft, which specifies that the vehicle is for educational purposes or personal enjoyment.  Most companies who have planes available for employee use would also make them available for employee flight training to meet the standards of the operation limitations (educational).

Q: Can you charge for rides in a flying car?

A: On the ground, yes you can.  In the air, again, it depends on what type of aircraft it is and what type of license the pilot has.

1. Light Sport Aircraft – If someone wants to come with you on a business trip and you’re not advertising to give people rides. You can accept the passenger’s fair share of fuel costs, which is usually considered to be half the fuel bill. You can also charge for flight training.

2. Certified Aircraft – The same rules apply as in Light Sport, unless you’re operating the plane under charter aircraft regulations, in which case you can charge fares the same as any other charter aircraft.

3. Experimental Aircraft – The same rules apply as in Light Sport, except that one can tow a glider for hire or conduct flight training.

Q: Where can you take off and land a flying car?

A: You can take off and land from any public use airport or airstrip (gravel or grass). You can also take off from any private airfield where you have permission to do so. You can take off and land from your own property or a neighbor’s property with permission, provided that you can be 500 feet above the ground when you fly over other houses, businesses or any populated area.  Although many people might dream of doing so, you cannot take off or land on roads or highways, except in an emergency landing situation.  Of course if your name is James Bond and your license plate says 007, you can probably get away with it, but that’s a story for another day.

– Martin Swift

Switchblade, Samson Sky, Skybrid, and Skybrid Technology are trademarks or registered marks, and are used with permission on these pages.

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