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In-Flight Photos Can be Dangerous, May Be Uninsured

By Bob Mackey, representative for the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, Administered by Falcon Insurance Agency

December 23, 2009 — Who hasn’t snapped a few pictures or shot a video while flying? Like when you’ve taken friends for their first flight, they always enjoy seeing the world from a new perspective. The problem is there are dangers if you don’t know what you are doing and you also may very well have insurance issues. Let’s talk about safety first, then look into the insurance issues.

Low-and-slow flying can be fun and exciting. After careful planning, I once flew from Southern Illinois up to the western suburbs of Chicago at the lowest legal altitude. It was fun but at the same time it was risky. Flying low and slow to take pictures requires solid slow-flight pilot skills and concentration. If you’re not skilled at slow flight, or if you haven’t done any slow-flight for a while, reconsider any low and slow flying until you get up to date on your slow-flight skills.

Ask any pilot who has flown professionally as a fire-watch pilot, power line or pipe line pilot, or agricultural pilot and they will tell you about special skills they have developed and specific flying techniques they use to stay safe. I always recommend annual recurrent training regardless of the airplane you fly. Next time you do any recurrent training make sure to include slow-flight training!

Cockpit distractions are another safety issue. If you are the pilot…fly the airplane! If you are going to take pictures or video inside or outside the airplane, let someone else be behind the camera. Remember, you are responsible for the safe operation of the airplane…not the quality of the pictures or video.

Okay, what about insurance? Generally any type of professional aerial photography or video is not covered under an airplane insurance policy for personal uses (pleasure and business is the aviation insurance industry term). If you are taking pictures or video, or if someone is riding in your airplane with you and they are taking pictures or video for compensation, or the pictures or video are going to be used as a part of their occupation, this may create a question of insurance coverage.

One aviation insurance company includes in their insurance policy a very broad exclusion for any type of picture-taking in-flight. If you are taking pictures or video from your airplane in conjunction with your work or the work of someone else onboard, check with your insurance agent to make sure you are not creating a coverage issue. Your insurance agent should be able to sort out the coverage questions and may also be able to have the insurance company modify the insurance policy to meet your needs. If you are simply letting passengers take pictures, take the time to read your insurance policy to make sure there aren’t any exclusions that might apply…and also contact your insurance agent to make sure what you are doing will not void your insurance coverage.

Flying is fun and it’s fun to share flying with friends and family. Be safe and be smart. If you are planning to do any picture taking make sure your pilot skills are up to the task of the flight you are planning. Also, make sure your insurance coverage is right…and if you have any questions contact your insurance agent!

May you and your family have a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year! And as always, Happy and Safe Flying!

If you would like to know more and the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, or if you would like to know more about finding the right insurance for the type of flying you do, call 866-647-4EAA (4322), or visit www.eaainsurance.org and complete the online quote request form. When you insure your airplane through the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan you’re helping support EAA Member Safety Programs and EAA Youth Education Programs. Peace-of-mind insurance coverage plus support for the future of aviation…now that’s a WIN-WIN combination!

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