Yes, Sport Pilot Training Is Insurable for Commercial Flight Schools! (But ...)
Recently AVweb published an opinion piece by the owner of a flight school who couldn't get insurance for training in a Light Sport Aircraft. This week an independent insurance agency clarifies some of the information about getting Sport Pilot insurance.
This article is in response to a recent opinion piece regarding the insurability of flight schools conducting flight training for new Sport Pilots.
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 (LSA) offer a new and very exciting frontier for general aviation. Looking back at my own training to become a Private Pilot compared to today, 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 LSAs we are already seeing make the ownership of a brand-new aircraft possible. In my opinion, we all owe a huge "Thank you" to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) who took a leadership role in making both Sport Pilot and LSAs 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 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 Sport Pilot instruction and rental in sport-pilot-qualified standard, primary, experimental light sport (E-LSA) and special light sport aircraft (S-LSA). If the flight school is a new start-up business, they too will be able to obtain insurance for Sport Pilot instruction and rental in Sport Pilot qualified aircraft, provided there is a sound business and financial plan, along with adequate previous industry experience by the key principals in the flight training. 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 site their poor loss-history when student pilots are taking instruction in tailwheel aircraft and 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 such 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 aviation insurance that do offer aircraft insurance for these operations.
Individuals who wish to exercise the privileges of a Sport Pilot -- whether as a new Sport Pilot or a Private, Commercial, or ATP rejoining the flying ranks as a Sport Pilot -- 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 E-LSAs or S-LSAs, 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 LSA Owners. That’s right: Nearly half of the available aviation insurance companies have embraced the new FAA rules for Sport Pilot and LSAs and agreed to offer aircraft insurance for individuals. In addition, although smaller in 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 E-LSAs and S-LSAs.
Again I have to give credit to EAA because they knew early on that, if the new FAA Rules for Sport Pilot and LSAs 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 LSA 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 existing for many years. Maybe once we get all of the aviation insurance companies on board for Sport Pilot and LSA 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 LSA owners, both individuals and flight schools.
Want to read more editorial and op-ed pieces from AVweb staff members and guest commentators? Check out the rest of our ATIS features.