Senator Leahy of Vermont is pushing for a law that would insulate volunteer pilot organizations (such as Angel Flight West) from liability for injury the organization’s pilots cause to its passengers. If the bill passes, it means that those injured by the negligence of an organization’s pilot would have no recourse against the organization. Rather, the passenger would be limited to seeking compensation against the pilot — regardless of how minimal the pilot’s insurance.
The trouble is that those who decide to fly with a charitable organization usually do so because they are impressed by the organization, not by the pilot. The passengers don’t select the pilot who, in some cases, they may not even meet the pilot until arriving at the airport for the flight. They have no way of checking out the pilot’s qualifications or competence level. Instead, they trust the organization to do that.
It doesn’t seem right for an organization to turn its back on an injured passenger or his family after an accident. Yet, that’s what the bill would allow.
The text of the proposed law is as follows:
Liability Protection for Volunteer Pilot Nonprofit Organizations
A volunteer pilot nonprofit organization that flies for public benefit, the staff, mission coordinators, officers, and directors (whether volunteer or otherwise) of such nonprofit organization shall not be liable for harm caused to any person by a volunteer of such nonprofit organization while such volunteer–
(A) is operating an aircraft in furtherance of the purpose of such nonprofit organization;
(B) is properly licensed for the operation of such aircraft; and
(C) has certified to such nonprofit organization that such volunteer has insurance covering the volunteer’s operation of such aircraft."