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The Never Ending Value of Training

by Darryl Abbey 1. January 2010 00:00
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Whether a pilot is upgrading to a Cessna 206, a Piper Matrix, a Robinson R44, an Embraer Phenom or a Gulfstream G550, there is one thing that insurance underwriters are likely to require: training in the new make and model to be flown.

This might be in the form of differences training if a similar make and model have been operated or initial training and dual operation if the new aircraft is a different type than the pilot has operated in the past. Training can range from a certified training program offered by an operators group (like Mooney or Baron) and which the underwriters recognize as a quality program to full motion simulator programs for high performance/high value aircraft.

Regardless of the make and model, the fundamental reason behind this requirement is always the same: Safety of flight. We have all heard or read the stories about the weekend warrior who got caught in deteriorating conditions and ran out of time, altitude, situational awareness, power or any number of other critical factors resulting in an unfortunate incident. While product failure, poor maintenance or other equipment related issues may be a factor, far more aircraft incidents include, at least as a partial factor, pilot error somewhere in the fault tree that led to the incident. Obviously, insurance carriers have a vested interest in minimizing loss potential. After all, it is there money potentially at risk if an aircraft incident does occur. However, safety of flight is also in the best interest of the operator, his passengers and their respective families and the owners of the property over which he or she is flying. We would never think of handing the keys to a Porsche 911 GT3 to a sixteen year old that had just learned to drive the family Taurus and yet there are some pilots who seem to feel that moving from a Bonanza to a Citation Jet is a reasonable transition with minimal risk.

If we agree that some form of initial training in type is a good idea, then we can move on to the matter of recurrent training. Some underwriters, particularly those who insure rotorcraft, will require annual recurrent training of their customers. Failure to comply with this requirement can result in voiding of the insurance on the aircraft or denial of coverage in the event of a claim. Some underwriters limit this requirement to specific makes and models of aircraft or for operators of fleets of multiple types of aircraft. Irrespective of what the underwriter does or does not require, recurrent training makes sense. That is not to say that every pilot needs to go to factory school each year. It might be a ground refresher course with a few hours of in-aircraft training to follow. The goal is to nudge the pilot's memory and remind him/her of certain procedures which, hopefully, he or she has not had to use in the past year. It is also to get an independent and objective assessment of the pilot's skills including what he or she does well and what needs work.

Safe flying is all about being prepared. You would not plan a VFR flight into known IFR conditions or take off without a pre-flight check. Add an annual training regimen to your routine. Your insurance underwriter will appreciate it and so will your family and friends.

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