Ninth Circuit Says Insurer Need Not Pay For Pilot Error

Some pilots believe that their insurance won't cover them if it's their own screw-up that causes an accident.  They believe, for example, that if they inadvertently violate an FAA regulation, their policy will be "voided."

That's seldom correct.  The purpose of insurance coverage is to protect the pilot who makes a mistake, regardless of how "stupid." When it collects the premium, the insurance carrier signs on to pay for pilot error. Falcon N914DD

But there are some situations where an owner or pilot can jeopardize his coverage. Like when he fudges his experience or training on his insurance application.  Tell the insurance carrier that you are instrument rated when you aren't and you may find that the policy won't cover you even if your accident occurs on a perfect VFR day.   

Pilot qualifications and training were at issue in a case just decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, Trishan Air v. Federal Insurance Company.  In that case, a pilot ran a Falcon 900 jet off the end of the runway at Santa Barbara.  It appeared that the accident was caused by the captain's error, plain and simple. 

The insurer denied coverage on the grounds that the co-pilot was supposed to have received motion-based simulator training with respect to the aircraft but did not.  His only simulator training was static-based. 

The operator argued that the static-based simulator training the co-pilot had received was substantially the same as the motion-based training the policy specified. More importantly, the pilot who was responsible for the accident had received the specified training. And no one suggested that the co-pilot's training (or lack of training) had any role in the accident at all. 

The court ruled that whether the co-pilot's training played a role was beside the point.  The carrier had agreed to underwrite a certain risk only. That risk involved a crew that had received motion-based simulator training. The carrier would not have issued the policy without the training requirement or, at least, would have charged a higher premium.

To make the carrier pay for the accident would be to force it to cover a risk for which it did not bargain.

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Comments (2) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Aviator - February 20, 2012 4:54 PM

Mike, the link to "...captain's error plain and simple" is broken.

Mike Danko - February 20, 2012 5:07 PM

Should be working now. Thanks for the heads up.

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