Home Forums Safety Insurance – Everyone’s Favorite Topic

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    David Webb
    General Member

    Let’s talk insurance.

    As most of us know already, our sport is getting harder to insure. That fact played a big role in bringing about the creation of the RRRG and all of the new insurance changes recently. Part of those changes included updates to the USHPA General Liability Policy (the policy that covers all of us pilots with our USHPA membership). I’d encourage everyone to read through it – link to that policy is here (you’ll need to log into the USHPA site to get to it).

    The important bits start on page 3 – “Exclusions”. These are things that now explicitly exclude you from coverage if an incident happens. Those include:

    • Acro
    • Launching/landing sites that are above your rating
    • Flying under the influence
    • Flying in conditions that are above the USHPA recommendations for your rating
    • Flying equipment (eg, hot wings) that exceeds the recommendations for your rating

    That means, for example, if you’re a P2 and you head up to Crestline, launch, get blown back, and nail a spectator in the face, breaking their nose, you are completely on the hook if they decide to sue. Healthcare in the US ain’t cheap.

    Or, if you’re a USHPA member but decided not to bother getting a rating, try to top land on Marshall and smash someone’s windshield to pieces – that’s right – you’re paying. We also have powerlines and a power station in the immediate area, in addition to homes and businesses, which are likely going to be much larger ticket items if damaged.

    Moral of the story – if you have no fear of bodily injury, maybe you have a bit of fear of financial ruin? Either way, it behooves us all to heed the rules.

    Fly safe, everyone.


    I’m not an attorney or particularly knowledgeable about insurance, but wonder if liability for anyone guilty of the four exceptions listed above is in fact limited to the individual. It seems attorneys always go after the deep pockets and the collective pocket of CSS is probably bigger than any of it’s members.

    If it’s true we’re not liable for the actions of individuals who are not in compliance with our insurance policy, then there’s nothing to worry about, BUT, if we do have culpability, then certain actions should be taken.

    Some of these might be:

    1. CSS rules clearly presented at the LZ.

    2. All pilots sign a document stating they have read and understand the rules governing flights at AJX. This is perhaps an annual requirement for members and a daily one for visitors.

    3. All shuttles check that riders are current USHPA and CSS rated members.

    4. Anyone seen violating any of the club rules should have a mandatory review of their documents (ie: current memberships and ratings) and counseling for corrective action.

    5. A daily sign in sheet to provide a record of pilot and site activity.

    There are other issues of concern, but I fear too long a post will distract from the above discussion. I’m a relative newby to the sport, but not new to aviation. The free flight community prides itself on self regulation with a minimum of government oversight. In my experience as a professional pilot, I found it ironic that insurance companies were actually far more strict in their governance than was the FAA. Insurance companies are the true regulators of  aviation. A simple fact we must face.

    David Webb
    General Member

    Thanks for adding, Thomas.

    Many of these actions are already in place (it’s a matter of pilots and drivers choosing to follow them).

    1. All of CSS’s guidelines are clearly spelled out on this site, and we have posters up in the LZ with some of that information presented again (such as the approach information, club policies, etc). I’ve said it before, but I highly recommend that everyone read through the site guidelines, even if you’ve been a member for a long time.
    2. All CSS members sign a waiver when buying or renewing a membership (it’s that large popup that comes up when you click “Sign Up” to buy your membership on the site). Here are the contents of that waiver (available in the Club Library).
    3. This is a hard one to enforce, since the club isn’t operating the shuttles (individuals are), but it would be great if this one was more consistent. Shuttle operators and drivers dropping off P2s at Crestline for a 1PM flight, for example, is definitely not a good thing for safety.
    4. This is written into the By Laws – it’s a matter of will to enforce.
    5. I think the sign in sheet is a good idea, but from a practical standpoint (such as pilots going straight up to launch before stopping by AJX, going XC and landing out, or launching and top landing), I’d suspect that it’s usefulness would be limited.
    Marc Deschenes
    General Member

    There’s a lot of safety information and site rules on the CSS website and posted at the shade structure but I how many visiting pilots read it? How many even pay the day-use fee?

    I’ve talked to visiting PG pilots who landed near the hang glider cone.  They were unaware of the landing patterns. And I’m sure many visiting hang pilots don’t know site rules and hazards. Did they even see the info posted at the shade structure? Or bother to read it?

    It would help to have a sign at the top of both stairs that can’t be avoided. ALL PILOTS READ THIS.  Or something similar that would list basic rules or direct pilots to information posted on the walls of the shade structure.

    Haven’t seen the day-use sign-up sheet. Does it show the landing pattern and other info? Along with paying the use fee, could visiting pilots sign a sheet of paper that listed basic CSS safety rules and hazards?


    David Webb
    General Member

    Those are good points, Marc. Common sense isn’t so common, it would seem. Would most of us go to a new site and just launch without at least looking for a bit of information about the place first? Probably not (at least, I hope not).

    Keep in mind that there is no “day use sign up sheet,” since day use is no more.

    We do have the approach patterns on big posters in the LZ, but as you said, not sure how many read those. I’m not sure a sign on the stairs would help, but we could certainly try that out. In talking to pilots on launch, a scenario I’ve run into more than once is visiting pilots driving directly up to launch, so any signage in the LZ would be moot.

    What seems to help (I try to do this as much as I can, but I’m only there usually once a week on the weekends) is saying hello to pilots that you don’t recognize and get them engaged in a little conversation. That makes it really easy to point them in the right direction for information, getting their membership squared away, and giving them a site intro if they haven’t had one already. We’ll need EVERYONE to participate in that to make that effective, but I think it could do the most good.


    Just for the sake of discussion, what if a P1 or P2 launched from a renegade launch site on the Marshall ridge and landed outside of the Andy Jackson LZ, has the pilot acted in a way that would exclude coverage for any damage he did?  The pilot did not launch from a rated launch site so he didn’t launch from a launch for which he wasn’t rated nor did he land in a landing zone that requires a specific rating?  Many sites are not rated at all so do any of the exclusions apply to pilots of any rating launching at unrated sites.  This all, of course, assumes that they launch into conditions that are consistent with their ratings, such as light winds, straight in at launch, non-gusty, etc.  This all can get really complicated for self-regulated enforcement.  Damned insurance companies.

    David Webb
    General Member

    The inner lawyer in me interprets the following from the policy as “you would not be covered flying from a bandito site or landing out somewhere else”:

    At the time of the “occurrence” giving rise to “bodily injury” or “property damage”, the pilot in command of the Unpowered Ultralight Vehicle was not operating at a location designated by the location’s managing USHPA Chapter and/or landowner as requiring a minimum pilot Flight Proficiency Rating greater than the possessed by the pilot in command…

    Should probably get the RRRG guys to clarify that one though.

    EDIT: Wow – I asked around and it sounds like Bo’s scenario holds up. I don’t even know what to say to that.

    EDIT 2: Everyone, please don’t do that.


    Thank you David for bringing this to our attention and for your thoughtful replies.

    Experienced pilots and club members have developed many good policies for our self governance, but as you point out, enforcement is the challenge. I see no good solution other than frequent reminders and, as you often do, personally ask pilots you don’t recognize if they’re familiar with our site rules and have current or visiting memberships. This may create awkward situations or even hostile responses, but it may also avert undesirable outcomes. Instructors are also one of the crucial links in ensuring the rules are understood and followed.  Marc’s suggestion for high visibility signs directing visiting pilots to the site rules couldn’t hurt and quite possibly help. Perhaps a similar notice should be posted at each of our common launch sites as well.

    The other significant issue needing to be addressed is pilots flying wings they’re not rated to fly. This is a more complicated issue but I believe the problem is not rare. I personally think the rating system is too inflexible and outdated reflecting a bygone era of our sport. Nevertheless, I’ve found little support for revising it. The current system will clearly ensure adequate experience, but it’s rigid requirements make attaining the advanced ratings an inordinately long process. I got my Airline Transport rating in less time than it will take me to meet the minimum qualifications to become an an H4. Does this make sense? There certainly should be some numerical minimums for each rating, but instructors should also be given flexibility to evaluate a pilot’s skill and experience in granting the progressive ratings.

    This problem goes well beyond our club, but it would be nice if a groundswell of support would urge our national organization to implement changes. Perhaps something along the lines of all pilots matter.

    John Benario
    General Member

    I have a H4.  I have no designs on a H5.  I also have ATP helicopter/MEL.  The reason I think the requirements to advance are strict is because unlike the rigid environment that we are in while achieving ATP,  the environment for HG/PG is lax and unregulated, and it is appropriate to ensure that HGPG pilots are truly of the skill level that the rating indicates.  If a rating allows one to fly from a site or fly a glider that they really shouldn’t then that affects us all relative to insurance issues.

    The P2 pilots launching from Crestline with negative consequences is a bit of a  low level example of the reasons for strict requirements for advancement.



    Jonathan Dietch
    General Member

    There is nothing new about the exclusions in the USHPA liability policy and there are still some loopholes in it that cover pilots who should be excluded from coverage. When a pilot commits bodily injury or property damage to someone who has not waived their rights, the injured party simply asks the pilot for compensation for their loss. If the pilot is a responsible human being then they pay out of their own pocket. and the matter is settled. Yes, the USHPA SOPs mandate that the pilot file a report. Whether or not these are filed is a separate matter. Assuming the pilot fails to own up to the costs of their error then the injured party files suit against the pilot and not USHPA, CSS or RRRG. If the pilot is lucky the RRRG will supply an attorney to represent or defend the pilot in pre-trial and trial proceedings. If RRRG fails to represent the pilot and the pilot is found liable then the pilot may turn around and sue RRRG for breach of contract or other malfeasance.

    When I fly X/C and land on someone’s crops and damage their produce or fence, etc. I offer to pay out of pocket for the injury they suffered from my unintended accident. Let’s say I’m landing out somewhere and a freak gust sends me through a windshield or living room window they may be covered by their auto or homeowners insurance policy and I may be off the hook other than for their deductible. As long as I pay their out of pocket from my pocket and make peace, everyone’s happy. But this is abnormal behavior in this country where people of all walks of life shirk their responsibility.

    The RRRG is for unforeseeable accidents and not a cushion for intentional stupidity. We are each ultimately  self-insured and the RRRG is going to do everything in its power not to pay out unless our accident was in strict compliance with  the SOPs and FAR103. In other words, the accident needs to be an act of G-d and not a dumb-ass stunt gone awry or other fool’s errand. It is in everyone’s best interest to be on friendly terms with everyone we encounter whether we like the other person or not.

    We operate in the Wild West and that’s the way it should be. This means get along with your neighbor for gosh sake.  Say “Howdy” and get to know one another. Don’t be adversarial. you will lose and we all will lose. Their are no posses or lynching parties. Any pissed off pilot can ruin it for everyone else and then go fly some other place leaving a mess behind. Get to know you neighbor even if it’s just for one minute. It can make all the difference.

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