Ask Jim -Your Aviation Insurance Questions AnsweredAsk Jim -Your Aviation Insurance Questions Answered

April 2016April 2016

Disclaimer: The following material is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For questions concerning your specific circumstances, consult a local attorney.

Back to the cockpit after 20 years…can I get insurance? Jim

DENNIS:  Hi Jim, I'm working on regaining my currency after almost twenty years of not flying. I am considering purchasing an airplane and a friend suggested I consider having insurance approved first?  How would I go about that?

JIM:  Dennis – first, congratulations on getting back into flying! There are a couple of approaches I would suggest. First, if you know what type and model of aircraft you want to purchase, give your broker a call with the information. They’ll ask for your total time, and total time in the make/model. They’ll need to know the approximate year and value of the aircraft, and then should be able get an indicative quote. Now, if you have your specific plane picked out, with an N-number, an agent can give you a bindable quote.  

Finally, if you are uncertain as to which aircraft is on your shopping list, the process is similar. Call your broker, and tell them the approximate values and types of the various aircraft you’re considering, they’ll quickly provide some indicative quotes.  And remember, if you have N-numbers and a quote comes back, you’re approved!

PIC, Medicals, and Insurance…

DICK:  Hi Jim, Your recent Q&A with "Jim" about this subject has raised an issue within our Cessna 172 flying club.  One of our officers now argues, based on your answer, that the insurance requirement for a CFI when flying with a pilot lacking a current medical certificate trumps the guidance AOPA otherwise provides:

Excerpt from above:

My medical was denied. Can I still fly?

Sure you can. You can't legally act as pilot in command or as a required flight crew member, but you can sit in the left seat of most aircraft and manipulate the controls, as long as you have a qualified pilot on board who is appropriately rated, current, and knowingly acting as pilot in command. In fact, you can LOG as pilot in command all that time that you are sole manipulator of the controls. You just can't act as PIC.

Apparently, while flying with a qualified pilot acting as PIC may be legal according to the FARs, insurance requirements make it inadvisable to follow the above guidance. Would you please clarify this for us?

JIM:  Dick – great question, this one’s going to get interesting, so grab a cup of coffee! At the end of the day, both the flight training article and my previous insurance article are correct, but let’s get into the details.

First, you are correct in that legality and insurance sometimes do not overlap. This does not mean that illegal activities are insurable; rather it means that sometimes legal activities are not insurable.

First with the flight training article: 

FAR part 91.3 describes the responsibility and authority of the pilot in command. While described, it does not signify the required rating, medical, or from which seat the aircraft must be flown. In addition, FAR 61.51 discusses logbook entries, and someone can log pilot in command time for the time they are the sole manipulator of the controls. However, lacking a medical, they cannot act as PIC. Confusing, yes…but in summary, acting as PIC through 91.3 describes who is truly in charge…however, how an activity is logged (61.51) does not necessarily mean you were acting in PIC – it means you were the sole manipulator of the controls.   

Now onto the insurance article:

Your insurance policy in essence is a contract, voluntarily transferring risk off yourself (or flying club) to an insurance company. While certain FAR’s may allow you to perform an activity, insurance companies are allowed have additional requirements – in this case, a valid medical as it is currently required by the FAA. And with insurance, PIC doesn’t differentiate between 91.3 and 61.51. To an insurance company, PIC means in charge or who is touching the controls, if even for an instant.

The question comes down to solely following the FARs, or following both the FARs and the requirements given in an insurance policy. Following the FARs doesn’t guarantee insurability – following the insurance agreement does.

Jim is always ready to assist and answer your questions about aviation insurance. Email your question, and it may just be highlighted in an upcoming Ask Jim Edition and you will receive a complimentary hat.

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