Why Are We Asked if We're Pilots?

By: Stewart Lapayowker

Business Aviation

In introductory calls with clients we are routinely asked if we are pilots.  Why?  Does an aviation transaction lawyer need to know how to fly an aircraft in order to be skilled at the legal aspects of buying, selling, financing, registering and advising on the regulatory aspects of an aircraft?  I think it’s because people naturally associate an aircraft with a pilot.  The legal skills required of a lawyer that handles aircraft transactions are significantly different from, and in many ways completely unrelated to, the mechanical operation of an aircraft.  After all, the acquisition of an aircraft involves the knowledge of aircraft registration law, FAA regulations, permissible operating structures, state tax issues, federal tax issues,  among others.  There is one thing that a safe pilot does have in common with a good aviation transaction lawyer: experience -experience with navigating the routine and complex transactional issues, none of which are the same in every deal, but all of which demand in-depth knowledge and experience.  So perhaps the questions shouldn’t be “are you a pilot” but rather “do you have the knowledge and experience to pilot us through this transaction safely and effectively so that our goals are achieved.”

The next question is usually “do you have a plane.”  I’m workin’ on it (but don’t tell my wife).