The Flying Funeral Directors Association, a group of 160 morticians who also are pilots, is upset with the Federal Aviation Administration. A few months ago, the FAA decided that morticians who use their own planes to transport deceased customers must comply with regulations for commercial operations. Out in the wide open spaces, many morticians use airplanes to make house calls, explains A. Groh Schneider, who is not only a mortician and a pilot, but also attorney for the association. Other morticians use airplanes to fly remains to out-of-town funerals.
Under the old system, the flying morticians only had to have private pilot licenses that required 40 hours of cockpit time. Now they'll have to have commercial licenses, which require a minimum of 190 hours. But the extra training is not the only issue, said Schneider. The morticians would have to pay commercial insurance rates, which are much higher. Apparently, insurance companies don't care whether your passenger is a cadaver, says Schneider. They charge the same rate as for planes that transport live passengers. The FAA apparently agrees. "A passenger is a passenger," says an FAA spokesman. "The pilot is getting paid to transport a passenger safely and that makes the pilot a commercial carrier." A federal appeals court in Philadelphia will listen to the morticians' appeal next week.