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Risky Business: Flight Instruction in Non-Owned Aircraft

By Bob Mackey, Senior Vice President, EAA Insurance Solutions, Administered by Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.

October 8, 2015 - I’m not one to encourage people to buy insurance out of fear, but, at the same time, there are some worrisome issues out there, especially for those offering flight instruction. Let’s take a look at risks and risk management as a flight instructor. When might a flight instructor fly a non-owned aircraft, and what are the risks of flying one? Flight instructors need to know the answers to these questions. This isn’t a topic that can be ignored.

What is a non-owned aircraft?

It’s any aircraft that you do not own in whole or in part.

When might an instructor fly such an aircraft?

The list can get quite long, but it includes when they fly a borrowed airplane for personal use, an airplane owned by a student pilot they are teaching or for whom they are providing a checkride, or an airplane owned by a flight school where they instruct as an independent contractor.

What is risk management?                                                 

I believe in a simple formula: risk management equals risk analysis plus risk prevention plus risk mitigation plus risk financing. Now, let’s define these terms:

  • Risk Analysis - assessment of what could happen
  • Risk Prevention - take action to stop or avoid controllable risks
  • Risk Mitigation - take action to reduce the negative impact of loss from certain risks
  • Risk Financing - insurance

Risk management overall is the balancing of all four elements to the satisfaction of the individual or an entity. Now, let’s look at these elements as they may apply to a flight  instructor.

What are a flight instructor’s risks when they fly a non-owned aircraft?

They include potential liability for injury to someone other than oneself, damage to someone’s property, and damage to the aircraft.

For example, say a flight instructor is flying with a student pilot, and they take the controls to demonstrate a particular landing technique. While landing, they lose control, and the airplane departs the runway and hits an airport employee cutting the grass. The instructor could be held responsible for the injuries to the airport employee, damage to the tractor the airport employee was driving, and damage to the airplane they are flying. If the student pilot being taught is also injured, the flight instructor could also be held responsible for those injuries, too.

Would the flight school’s airplane insurance respond to this accident? Yes. The flight school’s airplane insurance would repair the damaged airplane and respond on the flight school’s behalf for its potential negligence. The flight school’s airplane insurance may respond on the flight instructor’s behalf, too, if they’re an employee of the school and not an independent contractor. It may also respond on their behalf if the school had its airplane insurance modified to extend coverage to independent contractors, but in most circumstances, schools don’t do that.

How does a flight instructor protect themselves when they’re flying a non-owned aircraft?

The best protection is risk financing through flight instructor’s insurance and this can be accomplished in a couple of ways.

First, the flight instructor could be added as an additional insured on the flight school policy and such coverage should grant a waiver of subrogation in the flight instructor’s favor with respect to their activities as flight instructor or pilot examiner. Some insurance companies will not make this extension, while others will require an additional premium. The flight school may not wish to pay an additional premium, or the school may require the flight instructor to pay. This solution would apply only to the flight instructor’s use of a non-owned aircraft at that flight school. It would not apply to flight instruction conducted outside that school or any other use of a non-owned aircraft.

Second, the flight instructor could secure non-owned aircraft (renters) insurance for flight instructors, which would cover personal usage, as well as flight instruction, flight reviews, and flight examinations. This insurance also includes professional liability insurance to protect against alleged negligent instruction, review, or examination.

The first rule of risk management for flight instructors is don’t assume you’re protected. Either obtain written confirmation that you are protected by the flight school’s insurance or secure your own insurance. And if you are covered under the flight school’s policy, make sure the subrogation waive is in writing. Protect yourself - it’s likely no one else will.

Bob Mackey is senior vice president with Falcon Insurance Agency, the official administrators of EAA Insurance Solutions. If you have any comments about this article or if would like to see a specific aviation insurance topic addressed in a future article, send him an e-mail.

Related Member Benefits: EAA Insurance Solutions, Administered by Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc., developed the EAA Flight Instructor Insurance Plan several years ago to help flight instructors protect themselves from risk exposures encountered while flying a non-owned aircraft while conducting flight instruction and during non-commercial uses. EAA’s plan includes standard category airplanes as well as experimental amateur-built, experimental light-sport aircraft, and special light-sport aircraft. Furthermore, the definition of non-owned aircraft allows coverage for multi-engine aircraft, seaplanes, and gliders. For more information, check out the plan on our site, or call toll-free 1-866-647-4322. Remember, when you insure through EAA Insurance Solutions you are also supporting EAA’s Youth and Education Programs!

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