Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Fly and Earn Aerial Photography Business Kit

At first I didn't completely get the tagline on the front page of flyandearn.com: Your “$100 Hamburger” days are over. Let your “$1,000 Saturdays” begin. I mean, sure, we can all find a way to spend $1000 in one day of flying, but earning $1000? While flying? As a private pilot? We've all spent hours dreaming up schemes for lowering the cost of flying, let alone making money out of it without a Commercial license, so I was pretty sure I had explored every possible loophole. But maybe not.


Jay Taffet is the man behind flyandearn.com and was kind enough to give me a copy of the Fly and Earn Aerial Photography Business Kit ebook for the purpose of this review. This ebook is available for $35 through the web site and describes every aspect of how Jay, as a private pilot, started an aerial photography business without a CPL, and without breaking any law or regulation. Jay lives in the US so obviously the business concept he describes in the book has only been tested there. I think it's a great idea, but I still have doubts it would work in Australia.

In short, since shooting aerial photography for profit is clearly not within the privileges of the private pilot licence, the idea is to have a Commercial pilot on board to cover for this. Jay even suggests enrolling an instructor and combining flying lessons with photography. This way even student pilots can start their own aerial photography business and support their flying addiction at the same time.


I have to say the book is a pleasure to read and Jay's enthusiasm for his idea and clear, friendly writing style will get even the most sceptical private pilots thinking. A large part of the book covers the basics of setting up and operating the business, but the aviation side of things is not forgotten, with instructions on how to fly a pattern around the site to be photographed, and how to communicate with ATC in order to maximise the chance of getting a clearance should the site be in controlled airspace. And of course the ebook also addresses aerial photography and post-flight photo processing.

I am not sure at all the concept would work in Australia though. First, there is a difference here between holding a Commercial Pilot Licence and being able to operate a business that sells services linked to the use of the CPL. The latter, as far as I understand, requires an AOC (Air Operator's Certificate), which means an immense amount of paperwork with CASA. Ask any Chief Pilot. From my limited understanding, the rules in the US are a lot simpler, which allows for self-employed flying instructors for example, a concept unheard of in Australia.

If you think the idea might work in the country you fly in, this business kit is a very good use of $35 and will save you tons of time. And if your local aviation regulator killed the idea in the bud, well, you still have the $100 Burger, which is not such a bad way to spend a Saturday or Sunday either after all.

5 comments:

Brendan said...

If only it was so easy to make private flying profitable here in Australia - it certainly would be easier than convincing people to costshare (or so I've found!)

Darryl said...

I'm located in Canada and have done just this. I have set up a photography business, which is really what aerial photography is all about. It states in the canadian regulations that you only need a CPL for air transportation or air operations. This is neither. I can't fly below 1000' without permission but a good zoom lens is all I need to combat this. I'm 24 and this has helped me tremendously in building flight time as well as paying for my commercial license.

Julien said...

Thanks Brendan and Darryl for your two comments, which I think clearly highlight how much the business model in question depends on local aviation regulations.

Darryl, the good thing too I guess is that not only you built up time, but also business skills, which is always very handy to have!

Peter Lovett said...

Do not try this in Australia. CASA has made life extremely unpleasant for people who have gone down this route - even with a commercial licence they will tell you that you must have an AOC and all that goes with it.

Julien said...

Totally agree with you Peter, CASA probably wouldn't be amused at all.

Thinking about the whole aerial photography business, I wonder whether the future may not be in using drones? Already, garage-built drones are capable of flying a predefined flight plan using GPS and take a good-sized camera onboard. Not sure about the regulatory aspect of flying these over populated areas though.