John Sponge had a habit of
mooching rides with his friends as many of them
owned airplanes. If John's friends are like mine
they'd said, "Sure come along!" It's usually more
fun to fly with someone than it is to fly alone.
Mr. Sponge is having a ball
flying with his friend Jim Jam. Jim even lets him
shoot the last landing of the day. Oops, a gear up
landing! $10,000 damage. "Gee, I'm sorry, but your
insurance company will take care of it," says John
as he briskly walks away.
Enter the insurance agent; the
same man who took Jim Jam's money nine months
earlier for a hull and liability insurance policy.
"What do you mean there may not be coverage?!" Am
I really in a jam? Who cares who was flying my
plane?!" Answer---the insurance company.
When an aircraft owner buys a
policy the company makes this bargain---"We are
willing to insure you, a pilot with certain
minimum flying capabilities, but not every John
Sponge you may let handle the controls. The
premium we charged is based on your experience in
your airplane. If we knew in advance you may let
just anyone fly your plane we would have charged
more or not accepted your business at all."
So much for the attention
getter. No, not everyone who asks for a ride is a
sponge. Most are good people who offer to buy
breakfast or the gas and want to share in the
fellowship involved in doing something unique with
a friend. This article's purpose is not to
diminish that one bit, for flying with friends is
something special. The purpose is to insert the
element of caution and perhaps to help pilots
avoid, through education, the loss which is not
covered by insurance.
Lets talk about who can act as
an approved pilot. Most aviation insurance
contracts have a clause known as the open pilot
warranty. This clause is crucial for it describes
exactly who can fly the airplane in question and
who can not. A good example would be the pilot
warranty for a Cessna 182. It may read, "The
approved pilots are any Private or Commercial
pilot having no less than 500 hours as pilot in
command of which 15 hours were in C182's." If the
aircraft owner has less than these hours he may be
listed by name as an approved pilot. This clause
is a bargain between the aircraft owner and the
insurance company. The company agrees to pay a
claim as long as the pilot flying the plane at the
time of loss met or exceeded the requirements in
the open pilot warranty. If someone with less time
caused the loss then -- no coverage.
The warning here is not just
for the airplane owner but for the friend who may
go along and handle the controls. If the loss is
not covered by insurance because you (the friend)
were the cause, the aircraft owner may sue you to
recover their loss.
My suggestion for the aircraft
owner is a simple one. Read your insurance
contract and call your agent with any questions.
Ultimately, you have the final responsibility.
Also, be sure the person you let fly meets or
exceeds the requirements of the open pilot
warranty. There is nothing wrong with a request to
see your buddy's license, medical, and log book.
The insurance company will should a loss occur.
To the non-aircraft owner who
may operate a friend's plane from time to time, I
suggest you inquire into at least two areas; 1)
Does the aircraft owner have insurance? 2) Do you
meet the open pilot warranty? Also, log every
legal hour you fly. In the event of a loss the
company will use your log as evidence that you did
or did not have the required hours. One hour could
make all the difference.
Western Pilot News