Welcome back to the Aviation Insurance Blog!

Aerial application isn’t unlike any other aviation industry sector that needs new pilots. Veteran pilots continue to retire while the demand for flying continues to grow. Aviation operations often face the challenge of recruiting, hiring, training, and developing new pilots in the industry. One of the hurdles that operators face is how to best secure insurance coverage and satisfy insurance company pilot experience and training requirements for the new pilot.

Each pilot comes to the aerial application industry with different levels of experience. These experiences must be effectively captured and communicated 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 aerial application loading experience. Others may have considerable flying experience without any agricultural background. The logged tailwheel experience will be necessary as most traditional aerial application aircraft are configured with a tailwheel landing gear.

Depending on the pilot’s experience, the pilot and operator can develop several activities and milestones in a training plan with their aviation insurance broker and insurance company underwriter. This could include an aerial application pilot school or specific 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 aerial application experience. They will often limit chemical coverage to seeds and fertilizers only in the initial period or in some situations could include fungicides, pesticides, and insecticides. Insurers will regularly increase the policy deductibles for the new pilot until they’ve reached certain milestones. Most underwriters also like to see the trainee pilot supervised for the first aerial application season by their experienced operator or mentor.

Most underwriters would prefer a new pilot get their initial aerial application experience in a piston (or radial) engine aircraft with a lower insured amount. However, this can become a challenge as the number of piston aircraft decreases. The key is to communicate insurance questions and concerns in advance before hiring the pilot and develop a plan that will work for the operator, pilot, and the insurance company.

Pilots transitioning from the piston to turbine aircraft operations will also undergo a similar transition training program. There are simulators for some aerial application aircraft for initial and recurrent 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 typically follow. Chemical liability coverage being restricted for the initial transition operations is also a strong possibility. Either way, the operator, pilot, and insurance company aim to provide adequate training to prevent accidents and claims and ensure positive service to the operator’s customers.

Fortunately, aerial application has more flexibility in training options than most commercial and turbine aircraft operations. The key is adequate preparation, strong communication, and a well-crafted training plan. Working with a seasoned aerial application 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.

DISCLAIMER: These articles are for educational purposes only and due to the changing regulatory and legal nature of this business, some information may change over time. Having a well-educated and experienced aviation insurance broker on your team is an absolute requirement to success in business and for managing your aircraft and aviation business risks.