Welcome back to the Aviation Insurance Blog!
Agricultural aviation isn’t unlike any other sector of the aviation industry in the need for new pilots. As veteran pilots continue to retire the demand for flying continues to grow. Operators are often faced with the challenge of recruiting, hiring, training, and developing new pilots into the industry. One of the hurdles the operator faces is how to best secure insurance coverage and satisfy training requirements for the new pilot.
Each pilot comes to the ag aviation industry with different levels of experience. These experiences must be captured and communicated well to the aviation insurance broker so the pilot can be best presented to the insurance underwriter. Some pilots have a lot of farm experience or even ag aviation loading experience. Others may have considerable flying experience without any agricultural background. The logged tailwheel experience will be important as most traditional ag aircraft are configured with a tailwheel landing gear.
Depending on the experience of the pilot, there are several activities in a training plan that the pilot and operator can develop along with their aviation insurance broker. This could include an ag aviation flying school, or ground and flight training with an experienced and reputable operator. This training should include both flying and agricultural instruction.
Common elements of a plan once the pilot has the initial aircraft training and orientation is to fly simulated spraying runs with water. 25-50 water drops are common depending on the experience. Most carriers will also want to restrict the chemical liability exposure on herbicides until the pilot has adequate ag aviation experience. They will often limit chemical coverage to seeds and fertilizers only in the initial period or could include fungicides, pesticides, and insecticides. Most underwriters also like to see the trainee pilot supervised for the first ag aviation season by their experienced operator/mentor.
Most underwriters would prefer a new pilot get their ag aviation start in a piston (including radial) engine aircraft with a lower insured amount. As the number of piston aircraft decreases this can become a challenge. The key is to communicate about insurance questions and concerns in advance of hiring the pilot and develop a plan that will work for the operator, pilot, and insurance company.
Pilots transitioning from piston aircraft operations to turbine aircraft operations will also go through a similar training program. There are simulators for some ag aircraft for initial training. Others will do the initial aircraft training in the aircraft with the experienced operator providing the training and supervision. Simulated spraying runs (25+) in the aircraft with water would follow. Chemical liability coverage being restricted for the initial transition operations is also a strong possibility. Either way, the operator, pilot, and insurance company all have the same goal of providing adequate training to prevent accidents, claims, and ensure positive service to the operator’s customers.
Ag aviation has more flexibility in training options than most of the commercial aircraft industry. The key is good planning, strong communication, and a well-crafted plan. Working with a seasoned ag aviation insurance broker will be crucial to establishing a plan that will work for the operator and the insurance company.
Please contact Aeris Insurance Solutions if you have any questions, need any assistance with mentoring a new pilot, or transitioning a pilot from piston to turbine operations.