I’m a long time reader of GANews, and I’ve even had an article or two published by your paper. I was dismayed by the cavalier attitude of your article recently about Sport Pilot medicals (Pilots still frustrated by Sport Pilot medical, Oct. 21). In particular, it starts off with, “It’s always better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission.” The tone of the article seems to continue along that same path encouraging your readers to stretch the Sport Pilot Medical rule to beyond what I think is its breaking point. In my opinion your article is setting up people for potential problems, especially in relation to having their insurance claims handled easily and insuring their Sport Aircraft in the future.
I run an aviation insurance agency for light aircraft. We have customers with Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), and will continue to offer coverage for them as long as it’s available. However, I believe that what could ultimately kill LSA would be insurance companies refusing to insure them. I hope that doesn’t happen. However, I believe the thrust of your article is urging pilots to skirt the rules and that could hasten the end of the availability of insurance for those flying under the rule.
Many (the vast majority) of the calls that we’ve received regarding Light Sport have started with the pilot stating, “I can’t get a medical anymore, so I’m going to fly under the light sport rules.” Well, that to me is in direct conflict with the rule, and could ultimately result in a denial of coverage for that individual. Sometimes the pilots even inform us that their last medical was denied. I believe that the self certification and how that is defined will be the biggest problem. I believe that having (and knowing one has) a condition on the aeromedical criteria list you referred to is one part of that self certification.The other part is that you feel well enough to take the flight. Obviously, colds are not on the list, but one could feel bad enough with a cold to not take a flight.
The person who posed the last question in your article is a perfect example. In the question itself, the pilot states that he/she knows of a condition which would cause a denial of their next medical.That in and of itself should cause them to fail the self-certification rule in my opinion. They know or have reason to know of a medical condition that would make them unable to operate a LSA in a safe manner according to the FAA’s own list. I believe the EAA spokesman’s answer was incorrect for that reason. The pilot is obviously aware of the condition, and that it’s on the list of disqualifying conditions. Perhaps Dick Knapinski’s is the EAA’s position, but I think it is a position that will ultimately cause light sport to become uninsurable.
Your article indicated that as long as you’re “confident that you’re not likely to become impaired or drop dead in midair, you’re legal to fly as a Sport Pilot.” I disagree, and believe that the self certification rule would be much closer scrutinized than you seem to indicate by both the FAA and an insurance company in the event of an accident/incident. For example, if the pilot has been informed of a disqualifying medical condition by a non-AME physician, your article encourages people to not notify the FAA or an AME or consult either for advice. Rather your article suggests that as long as the FAA is not made aware of the condition that it’s OK to operate an aircraft (under any rules). It seems that your article is forgetting about the self certification part of the rule altogether here. How would some pilot know whether he/she is going to become impaired if not by consulting the aeromedical criteria and self decertifying themselves on that basis? I would say that having a condition on that list immediately disqualifies that pilot until such time as he’s cleared up that medical issue, and reestablished his medical certificate per the Sport Pilot Rule.
Despite what some people think, insurance companies do not like to be seen as prone to denying claims. They’d likely be forced to deny a lot of claims due to medical issues if the general populace follows the guidance suggested by your article, and apparently the EAA. I believe that the insurance companies could become frustrated with the number of difficult claims having to do with medical issues. That could be a result of claims they don’t feel they should have to pay but which they ultimately do pay, or too numerous denials of coverage (not overturned in court in the ensuing lawsuit) due to medical issues making them look bad.
I don’t want anyone to feel that I’m against the Sport Pilot Rule. Actually, it’s just the opposite. But my experience so far with Sport Pilot insurance requests consisting mostly of pilots who don’t meet the medical requirements of the rule, and the actions your article seems to be urging pilots to take to skirt the intent of the rule, will ultimately cause problems with insuring those planes and pilots and could ultimately kill the rule and perhaps some pilots flying under it.
John “JT” Helms
NationAir Insurance Agency
Light Aircraft Office