Costello Insurance Associates Aviation Insurance

 Costello Insurance
 Associates, Inc.
 Tel: 800.528.6483
 Tel: 480.968.7746
 Fax: 480.967.3828
 insure@aviationi.com

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One Hour In Your Log Book May Make The Policy Difference

By Pat Costello, Costello Insurance Assoc.

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
(Updated 9-30-03)