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May I Fly Your Airplane?

By Bob Mackey, Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.

If you’re like most pilots, you probably don’t plan to have someone else flying your airplane. Most of the pilots I know are pretty particular about their airplanes and letting someone else fly their airplane is out of the question. In fact, I heard one of my friends tell another pilot when asked if he would let someone else fly his airplane, "No, sorry my insurance will not allow other pilots to fly my airplane.” I knew my friend’s aircraft insurance policy because I’m his insurance agent and when I reminded him his insurance policy contained an Open Pilot Warranty, which would allow other pilots to fly his airplane he told me, “look, I’d rather blame my insurance company than tell a pilot friend that I don’t want him to fly my airplane.” Fair enough. I’d probably do the same thing to avoid damaging a friendship.

Regardless how you feel about letting other pilots fly your airplane, do you know what your aircraft insurance policy allows when it come to other pilots?

There are essentially two primary places in your aircraft insurance policy that spell out who may fly your airplane: The Named Pilots section and the Open Pilot Warranty. These are usually found on the Declarations Page or Coverage Summary Page. This is usually one of the first one or two pages of your aircraft insurance policy where you will also find other facts about your insurance such as Named Insured, Insured Aircraft, Policy Term, etc. The Named Pilot section will state the names of all approved pilots, and it may or may not list their qualifications. The Open Pilot Warranty may not be titled as such, however it will read something like this:

Any Private Pilot or better with 300 hours Pilot in Command, 25 hours in the Make and Model aircraft insured, and the permission of the Named Insured.

Please note that sometimes you will not find the Named Pilots or Open Pilot Warranty on the Declarations Page or Coverage Summary Page. What you might find instead is a statement directing you to an attached endorsement.

If you own an experimental amateur-built airplane odds are you do not have an Open Pilot Warranty. It is pretty much a universal practice that insurance underwriters will not offer an Open Pilot Warranty on a homebuilt airplane because they want to make sure they are aware of the qualifications of all pilots flying the airplane. I’m not saying this is an absolute, although I cannot remember the last time I saw an Open Pilot Warranty for a homebuilt.

I said above that the Named Pilot section and Open Pilot Warranty are the primary locations where approved pilots or pilot requirements will be listed. Some aircraft insurance policies have another area which your policy may include. This additional area in your aircraft insurance policy will vary, and some aircraft insurance policies will not offer this expansion. What you are looking for is a clause in your aircraft insurance policy that states your airplane may be operated or flown in conjunction with aircraft maintenance or repair by someone who is working for an FAA approved repair station or FAA approved facility, provided you do not hinder or restrict the insurance company’s right or ability to recover any claim they may pay as a result of the other pilot’s negligence. This gets a little tricky so please note a couple of important issues here. First, the repair station or facility must be FAA approved. That means this provision in your aircraft insurance policy would not apply if you had someone fly your airplane after they performed any repair or maintenance and they were not doing the work at an FAA approved repair station or FAA approved facility.

Second, if you do go to an FAA approved shop to have work done on your airplane and  sign a liability waiver that holds the shop harmless in any way, you have voided this clause of your policy because you have restricted or disallowed your aircraft insurance company from seeking recovery from the shop as a result of their negligence. This gets a little tricky and you should read you aircraft insurance policy carefully. If you have any questions, call your insurance agent.

One final item related to the topic of who can fly your airplane: Here’s a little test for you. Suppose you own a Cessna 172 and the Named Pilots on your aircraft insurance policy include you and your spouse. Further, your aircraft insurance policy includes an Open Pilot Warranty that states any other pilots can fly your airplane with your permission provided that have 300 total hours as pilot in command and 10 hours in the insured make and model aircraft. You decide to allow your nephew to start taking flying lessons in your airplane, which you arrange with a friend who holds a Certified Flight Instructor rating and several hundred hours in a Cessna 172. During one of the first lessons your nephew over-corrects and flares too high which results in a hard landing and about $10,000 in damage. Will your aircraft insurance policy pay for the damages? The answer is probably not.

Most likely, as far as your aircraft insurance company is concerned, the pilot at the time of the accident was your nephew because he was in control of your airplane and therefore responsible for the airplane's operation, was not a Named Pilot and did not meet the Open Pilot Warranty. Even though the FAA would consider the Certified Flight Instructor to be the pilot in command, you need to read the Definitions section of your aircraft insurance policy. There you will find how the insurance company defines the term Pilot.

The moral here - make sure you check your insurance policy and talk to your insurance agent if you have any questions about a situation like this example.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, if you are like most pilots, you have no intention of letting someone else fly your airplane. Nonetheless, you should know what your aircraft insurance policy will and will not allow when it comes to other pilots. You can do like my friend and blame your insurance company. That’s fine. However, just in case, at least know where to look in your aircraft insurance policy and if nothing else call us. Falcon Insurance Agency and the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan and we will help you find the answer.

Remember, regardless of what kind of airplane you are flying, you should check out the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan. Every day we save EAA Members money on their aircraft insurance and make sure they get the right aircraft insurance for the kinds of flying they are doing. Call today! The toll-free number is 866-647-4EAA (4322) or online at www.eaainsurance.org and submit the online quote request form.

EAA INSURANCE TIPS is a special EAA Member benefit. If you have an insurance related topic you’d like to see addressed or if you have any comments, please email bmackey@falconinsurance.com. If you need an insurance quotation call 866-647-4EAA (4322).

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