Since I have been in the business of aviation insurance, one of the issues I have dealt with, if not the leading issue, is pilot flight time. I have been presented with an amazing amount of scenarios, more than you can imagine. Probably the most outrageous being a guy with more money than sense wanting to buy a jet and do ALL of his certs and ratings in it, yes, even his private. His excuse for not going the normal route being that, “little propeller airplanes make him nervous”. Perhaps after he went down the list of brokers he got tired of hearing the same thing…No!
This brings me to my main point, what are the underwriters looking for? I often answer this question with a question, if it is your airplane, your pride & joy, who do you trust to fly it?? This usually gets us on the right conversation track as the answer is usually; “Ole Bob” who I am informed has a million hours in make & model, and owns the same or very similar aircraft. Ok then, that makes sense. Well what if “Ole Bob” owns a land plane and yours is on straight floats, and the ink is still wet on his SES rating? Now how do you feel? Is he safe? Do you trust that he is not going to dig a float in and flip, or misjudge that glassy water?
Let’s look at an opposite scenario, “Ole Jim” has 180 hours now that he is very proud of, and 100 of those hours are in a float plane just like yours. Now how do you feel? This what I call the quantity vs quality conundrum, and I face it all the time.
The “Ole Bob” example is based on a real loss I had a few years ago. An airline pilot who had just passed his SES checkride, and was buying into a very popular model float plane went right out and dug the left float in on landing, and that was that. He survived, but his pride and partnership was damaged.
The problem often stems from friendships and loyalty which can cloud the judgment of folks which translates in to pressure on me (your broker) to perform a miracle, which I have many times when it has made sense.
You see with me, you get a pilot first, and an insurance guy second, so I feel I am able to truly advise in these situations. Many brokers wouldn’t know a Piper cub from a Navajo if they were sitting next to one another (sad but true). Real quick story that ties into this, I used to work at this other agency where most are not pilots, and one day while one of the customer service reps was putting together the paperwork for a newly written policy, she asked the agent that wrote this particular policy, “How many seats does this J3 have?” I could hear him frantically shuffling papers in his office looking for the million dollar answer. Finally, I just felt bad for the guy and called out “2” on his behalf. This could be someone who represents you and your interests with regards to your airplane.
The reason I shared that story is because when you have a pilot situation that is “not perfect” and many are not. You need to have someone who understands how it all really works, otherwise, how then go to bat for you, or tell you are making a big mistake? When it comes to pilot times and getting someone approved, remember this: Be honest, Be real (common sense), Be prepared for a possible “no” Remember that quality is often more important than quantity. This is where you need a broker that knows what they are doing to negotiate this with the underwriters.
As for the Open Pilot Warranty, this is a minimum profile set forth by the underwriter that says “If someone meets this criteria, they are legal to fly your plane with your permission, and you don’t have to ask us”. Most of the time there are holes between the actually pilot’s record and the OPW.
This is a case by case obstacle, that I’d be glad to offer more insight on. Feel free to contact me on my website or on the forum.
Fly safe and land smoothly!