By BOB MACKEY
The designated pilot examiner (DPE) and student pilot were conducting a private pilot check ride. The DPE reported that, during climb-out, he retarded the throttle to simulate an engine failure. The student attempted to recover the airplane by lowering its nose to maintain controlled flight. However, the airplane descended.
The DPE terminated the simulated engine failure, took control of the airplane, and attempted to recover full engine power, but the engine remained at idle power, and the airplane descended into trees.
A post-accident examination of the airframe and engine revealed no mechanical malfunctions or failures, and the engine was test run with no anomalies noted. The reason for the engine’s failure to regain full power could not be determined.
Needless to say, “stuff” happens and sometimes there aren’t any clear explanations. But just because there wasn’t a determination as to why the engine would not regain full power, this doesn’t mean things will go back to just as they were before.
After the accident the insurance company for the aircraft owner will pay the insured value of the aircraft.
If there were any injuries to the DPE or the student pilot, those would also need to be addressed by the insurance company for the aircraft owner.
And, if there was any property damage, other than to the aircraft, the same insurance company would also need to deal with this as well.
But, things may not be over.
There is always the possibility the insurance company for the aircraft owner, after they have paid for the airplane, any injuries, and any property damage, may contact the DPE, student pilot, and even the shop that did the last annual inspection on the aircraft. This thread could go even further back to the shop that did the last engine overhaul.
Just how far this goes depends on the amount of the claim paid by the insurance company. The fact is there was never a reason for the engine failure so who’s to say who might be responsible?In this particular situation, there are a couple of things the DPE and the student pilot hopefully did prior to the accident.
The DPE, who may also be a flight instructor, should have flight instructor insurance, either as an employee of the flight school or as an individual independent contractor. This insurance would protect him for flight instruction, flight review, and flight exam (check ride).
The student pilot should have purchased a personal non-owned aircraft insurance policy before taking his first flight lesson.
Both of the insurance policies would apply to any potential legal obligation the DPE or student pilot might be considered to be responsible for as a result of the accident.
These insurance policies would also provide legal defense above and beyond the limit of insurance they purchased, and in a situation such as this where the cause of the engine failure was undetermined, that legal defense could be significant.
Aviation insurance brokers help aircraft owners, pilots, flight instructors, DPEs and others in the aviation community find the right insurance at the best price. A good broker will help analyze their risks and find insurance solutions.
Sometimes it might be okay to not buy insurance, like when an airplane is paid for and there isn’t a bank lien, but other times it may be more prudent to buy insurance to be protected when “stuff happens.”
Bob Mackey is senior vice president with Falcon Insurance Agency, the official administrators of EAA Insurance Solutions. A commercial pilot with an instrument rating, he has been involved in the aviation insurance industry for over 35 years. You can email him at email@example.com