Stuart Hope is a co-owner of Hope Aviation Insurance. His career as an aviation insurance broker... Read More
If your aircraft is approved for single-pilot operations and your insurance carrier is unaware that your company is using a co-pilot- Stuart Hope advises extreme caution.
Second in Command (SIC) pilots flying aircraft certified for single-pilot operations present a situation that warrants special consideration regarding insurance coverage of your flight department. Since most business turboprops and several light jets fall into this category- Board Members should determine that the corporation they govern is not at risk.
Assume your company owns a King Air or single pilot Citation model that is flown by a well-qualified aviator who completes simulator-based training appropriate to the aircraft every year. The pilot is listed on the insurance policy as approved to operate the aircraft. For certain trips (e.g. flights into high-density traffic areas- or where adverse weather is forecast)- your director of flight operations elects to utilize a co-pilot. This is certainly sound risk management strategy.
In aircraft that require two pilots- the insurance policy will stipulate the aircraft must be operated by a two-pilot crew consisting of an approved Pilot-in- Command (PIC) and Second In Command (SIC). In general- the insurer’s policy states that both of these primary pilots engage in recurrent training appropriate to their flight duties at an approved ground and flight school for this aircraft every 12 months. It is not unusual for the PIC and SIC to switch seats and alternate serving as the pilot handing the flight controls on alternate legs. Thus it makes sense that both pilots receive recurrent training.
READ THE POLICY
Let’s look at how an insurance policy for an aircraft certified for single-pilot operation might be worded. Typically the phraseology states:
“It is a condition of this insurance that when in flight- the aircraft will be operated only by pilot(s) specified below:
• Named pilot: John Smith- or
• Any pilot who holds a Commercial Pilot
Certificate or higher certification with Multi- Engine and Instrument Ratings- is type rated in the make and model aircraft operated and has a minimum of the following hours of flight as recorded in his/her logbook.
- 5-000 Total Logged Flying Hours
- 2-500 Hours in Multi-Engine aircraft
- 500 Hours in Turboprop or Turbofan powered aircraft
- 100 Hours in the Make and Model aircraft operated
• It is further required that such pilot(s) must have successfully completed a motion-based simulator training course specifically designed for the make and model aircraft operated within the preceding 12 months of policy inception and annually thereafter.” You can quickly see that an owner of a single-pilot certified aircraft using a SIC can get out of bounds on coverage if the specific terms of the policy are not properly addressed. In the event of an accident- the insurer will try to determine who actually was operating the controls of the aircraft at the time of the accident. Then the insurer will examine the terms of the policy to determine if that pilot was approved. If not- a claim denial is a real possibility.
Let’s now imagine that the owner of an aircraft certified for single-pilot operation uses a SIC even though a second pilot is not required. The approved PIC allows the SIC to operate the aircraft from the left seat- while the approved PIC occupies the right seat. (Note: The PIC’s cockpit location is specified during certification as the left seat.) The aircraft is landing in a rain shower and the aircraft hydroplanes- skidding off the runway- causing substantial damage.
During the adjusters investigation- one of the passengers comments the last thing he remembers is the SIC in the left seat landing the aircraft. If this piloting arrangement has not been approved by the insurer PRIOR to the loss- the owner (your company) may be facing this claim on its own.
The situation of pilots swapping seats seems to go on all the time- often for what can seem like good reasons. Often clients are under the impression that the scenario described here is perfectly acceptable because- in the event of a loss- their primary pilot listed on the policy will always be considered the PIC regardless of who was actually operating the aircraft. This might be how the FAA treats the situation- but it is not the definition the insurance company uses- and their definition is the one that counts when it comes to your coverage.
Even though the insured aircraft is certified for single pilot operation- you are jeopardizing coverage unless the additional pilot has been added to the policy as an approved SIC. Call your broker- and be sure the insurance company agrees to the proposed crew arrangement. There are various strategies for seeking approval to use an SIC when one is not required- largely depending upon the pilot’s credentials- and his or her role in the cockpit.
It is fairly easy to obtain approval for the SIC simply to sit in the right seat and handle the charts and radios. Seeking approval for the SIC to operate the aircraft from the left or right seat may be more difficult if the pilot is not well qualified. There may be a requirement for the pilot to complete a ground and flight school prior to assuming his or her cockpit duties. Some insurance companies are more flexible than others- and of course your aviation insurance broker can help you navigate this situation.
If you weren’t already one of the informed- you are now aware of the issues involved. There is simply too much at stake to simply assume coverage in the event of a loss.