Is sport pilot training insurable for commercial flight schools? Yes! (However there are some long-standing parameters.)
This letter is in response to a recent letter regarding the insurability of flight schools conducting flight training for new sport pilots (Are commercial flight schools uninsurable? May 20 issue).
First off, I could not agree more with the first few paragraphs of the previous letter. The new FAA rules for Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft offer a new and very exciting frontier for general aviation. Looking back at my own training to become a private pilot, I realize that I would struggle today to keep the faith and commitment (hours and money) needed to complete my license. The new sport pilot license offers an extremely reasonable and safe entry point for individuals who yearn to fly. In addition, the new light sport aircraft we are already seeing make the ownership of a brand-new aircraft possible. We all owe a huge thank you to the Experimental Aircraft Association, which took a leadership role in making both Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft a reality. Of course other organizations and individuals committed substantial resources to this accomplishment, however it takes a leader, and Tom Poberezny and the rest of the dedicated staff and volunteers from the EAA camp deserve the bulk of the credit for opening a new door for aviation enthusiasts to enter and in some cases re-enter the world of personal aviation.
Just how insurable are flight schools desiring to provide sport pilot training? Well, if the flight school has a proven track record and a well run operation, aircraft insurance will be available for instruction and rental in sport pilot qualified standard, primary, experimental light sport and special light sport aircraft. If the flight school is a new start-up business, provided there is a sound business and financial plan, along with adequate previous industry experience by the key principals in flight training, they too will be able to obtain insurance for sport pilot instruction and rental in sport pilot qualified aircraft.
However, if the chosen sport pilot qualified aircraft is a tailwheel or conventional gear aircraft, insurance very well may not be available. Why? When it comes to instruction and rental in tailwheel aircraft, aviation insurance companies cite their poor loss history when student pilots are taking instruction in tailwheel aircraft or when renting tailwheel aircraft to renter pilots. Does this prohibition have anything to do with the new Sport Pilot license? No, absolutely not. In fact, five years ago, and even 10 years ago, flight schools would have had a very difficult challenge trying to secure aircraft insurance for instruction and rental in tailwheel aircraft for the same reason they cannot obtain aircraft insurance today. Aviation insurance underwriters are saying the same thing today as they were 10 years ago: student pilot training or rental pilots + tailwheel aircraft = insurance claims.
Today, flight schools are finding aircraft insurance available for sport pilot training in sport pilot qualified aircraft provided these aircraft are not tailwheel configured. Even though not all aviation insurance companies are offering aircraft insurance for sport pilot training, there are some that do offer aircraft insurance for these operations.
The current status of the aviation insurance industry when it comes to individuals who wish to exercise the privileges of a Sport Pilot, whether as a new sport pilot or a private, commercial, or airline transport pilot rejoining the flying ranks as a sport pilot? These folks will find aircraft insurance available, including tailwheel aircraft, provided they meet all of the aviation insurance underwriter’s criteria. For those pilots who want to purchase one of the new Experimental Light Sport Aircraft or Special Light Sport Aircraft, they too will find aircraft insurance available, again provided they meet the aviation insurance underwriter’s criteria.
I have to take my hat off to several of the aviation insurance companies Falcon uses because they have agreed to offer aircraft insurance for Sport Pilots and Light Sport Aircraft Owners. That’s right! Nearly half of the available aviation insurance companies have embraced the new FAA rules for Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft and agreed to offer aircraft insurance for individuals. In addition, although a smaller number, we have top-notch aviation insurance companies ready to offer insurance for flight schools that want to offer Sport Pilot training and/or operate Experimental Light Sport Aircraft and Special Light Sport Aircraft. Again I have to give credit to EAA because they knew early on if the new FAA rules for Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft were to succeed, there needed to be an infrastructure to support this new aviation arena, and that includes the availability of aircraft insurance. Falcon Insurance Agency and EAA have been working hand-in-hand to inform, educate, and even provide actual hands-on experience for aviation insurance underwriters to ensure this element of the Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft equation was ready to go. Are we done? Have we accomplished all of our work? NO! But we’ve come a long way and today aircraft insurance is available with some conditions — conditions that have existed for many years. Maybe once we get all of the aviation insurance companies on board for Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft, we can turn our attention to the issue of insurance for instruction and rental in tailwheel aircraft, however today we’re concentrating on the new future…aircraft insurance for sport pilots and light sport aircraft owners, both individuals and flight schools.
Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.