Flytenow, a plane-sharing start-up, is suing the FAA.

Flight-sharing start-up suing FAA

January 30, 2015 12:00 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

A plane-sharing start-up called Flytenow is suing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for setting new "arbitrary" and "capricious" rules that have forced the company to cease operations. 

Flytenow matches private pilots with fellow travelers who are looking for rides and are willing to split the costs of travel. For example, a pilot who is planning to go from Boston to Palm Beach might post his flight plan to the Flytenow app. A passenger could then offer to pay for some of the fuel and other travel expenses, in exchange for a seat on the plane. 

The FAA moved last summer to shut down Flytenow, saying that the company was trying to enable private pilots to function as commercial airliners. However, Flytenow CEO and Co-founder Matt Voska argues that is not the case. He says that flying enthusiasts have been sharing flights and splitting costs since before the Internet, typically posting travel plans on airport bulletin boards. Voska says that Flytenow simply makes that communication digital. 

"Expense-sharing among pilots is perfectly permissible and in accordance with current Federal Aviation regulations," says the official legal complaint. "The only thing that has changed in this case is the means of communication. Rather than pilots sharing their travel plans via the phone, email or a bulletin board at a regional airport, they now communicate those plans via the Internet. This communication is unquestionable protected speech."

Flytenow's business model is somewhat similar to those that ride-sharing companies like Uber and Zipcar have pioneered on the road. Some such car-related start-ups have also encountered legal resistance. If you are launching a start-up that challenges and disrupts the status quo, be sure to enlist the help of an experience small business attorney early in the process. 

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