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.