FAA investigating 'Uber for planes' company BlackBird

BlackBird must hold certain aviation certifications, FAA says

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told tech company BlackBird, which operates like Uber for chartered flights, to "expect further investigative activity" in a letter last week.

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FAA also issued a general warning on Thursday about BlackBird and any other organizations that make chartering a flight "as easy as tapping a few buttons on your mobile device."

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"The letter [to BlackBird] emphasizes an FAA policy about the requirements for pilots who are paid to fly passengers," FAA wrote. "The policy states that pilots who are paid to fly passengers generally can't just hold the required Commercial or Airline Transport pilot license – they also must be employed by the company operating the flight, which must hold a certificate issued under Part 119 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Or the pilots must themselves hold a Part 119 certificate."

BlackBird has maintained that it is an online platform, not an air transportation provider, and doesn't need to meet such requirements.

"To be clear, the FAA is taking issue with one specific option available to customers, not the BlackBird platform as a whole. ... The vast majority of options on BlackBird are Part 135 which the FAA supports. The one option they are struggling to understand is allowing customers to rent a plane and, separately, hire a pilot to fly that plane," BlackBird spokesman Rudd Davis told FOX Business.

"This is how business aviation has worked for decades, but unfortunately the FAA doesn't understand technology and so they stick with their tried and true method of bullying pilots instead of supporting innovation," Davis said. " However, they've asked us to sit down in January and explain how software enables this option for customers while staying within the regulatory framework, so we're hopeful to have a positive resolution soon but for the time being we will pause that particular feature of the BlackBird platform."

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BlackBird was backed with $10 million from venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

Uber itself offers helicopter rides, a relatively new development this year. An eight-minute Uber helicopter ride from Manhattan to JFK International Airport was briefly cheaper than an Uber Black car for a small, select group of users in early November.      

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