FlightSafety International recently observed that in-flight loss of control (LOC-I) has overtaken controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) as the leading cause of aviation fatalities. Whether attributable to over-reliance on cockpit automation, degraded hand-flying skills, de-emphasis on academic aeronautical science or a combination thereof, it presents a serious problem.
Aviation insurers recognize the advantage of encouraging safety training that can avert large claims, and some underwriters and providers of in-flight upset recognition and recovery training (URRT) are collaborating to mitigate instruction costs. Compensation ranges from direct rebates or premium rate discounts to consideration in the underwriting process.
Those partnerships include international underwriter and reinsurer Swiss Re teamed with Aviation Performance Solutions (APS), based at Phoenix Gateway Airport, Ariz.; QBE Holdings and Flight Research at Mojave Airport (MHV), Calif.; and Global Aerospace Insurance and Buffalo, N.Y.-based Calspan. Jeffrey Bauer, president of NationAir, a broker of aviation insurance working with numerous U.S. underwriters, said he believes no other underwriters are currently offering similar financial incentives.
Swiss Re, partnered with simulator training firm CAE and upset training specialist APS, offers premium rebates of up to $25,000 in actual URRT costs incurred in training an insured’s pilots. The three-day APS course provides ground school, type-specific simulator sessions and in-flight training. The APS training begins with computer self-study on upset avoidance, recognition and recovery; moves through flight instructor-led ground school and sessions in CAE level-D simulators; to flight in piston-powered Extra 300L high-performance aerobatic aircraft, with optional unusual-attitude training in former U.S. Navy TA-4 Skyhawk jet trainers.
QBE includes financial incentive packages in the insurance policy form during the underwriting process, explained AirSure sales executive Joel Heining, representing QBE. “We reward insureds who demonstrate a commitment to safety.” QBE also offers a 5-percent “no-claim” bonus payable at the end of the policy year, while evaluating the insured’s level of safety training at the front end of the underwriting process.
Flight Research provides upset recognition and recovery training in turbine-powered aircraft with recovery characteristics that parallel those of business jets and airliners. It begins with specialized classroom training, later applied in flight by instructors who place the aircraft in pre-planned “out of control” conditions. Pilots learn hands-on to apply classroom knowledge to recover control of the aircraft safely. Flight training takes place in the Aermacchi MB-326M Impala and North American Sabreliner 60. The Impala’s performance closely parallels that of Gulfstreams and Citations, and its ejection seats enhance the safety of the flight training. The Sabreliner shares aerodynamic characteristics with Airbus, Boeing and Embraer airliners.
Heining added, “Underwriting is subjective. The underwriters believe that they have a stronger comfort level if the insured has a comprehensive safety management system in place that includes upset recognition and recovery training. This leads the underwriter to perceive a lower level of risk, which directly affects the coverage. They like to see formalized flight training, combined with simulator, emergency and CRM procedures.
“All of the insurers support and approve of it, but not all offer financial incentives,” Heining noted, observing that aviation insurance is more personal than in other business areas, so the amount of risk that is underwritten varies with the nature, size, types of mission and operational record of a specific insured.
Global Aerospace, through its Vista program, rewards policyholders who undergo specific safety training. Individual policyholders receive dividends of up to 10.5 percent of premiums, while Vista group policyholders earn dividends of up to 4.9 percent. Global announced in March that it will subsidize 25 percent of the cost per pilot to customers who complete the Calspan LOC-I training program this year through Global’s SM4 safety initiative. Global Aerospace and Calspan launched their training partnership in October 2013 to a select group of qualified Global customers. Access to the LOC-I training has been expanded to all operators insured by Global Aerospace.
The goal of the LOC-I training is to improve pilots’ hand-flying skills in Calspan’s Advanced Maneuvering & Upset Recovery Training (AM-URT) program. Designed for Global Aerospace customers, it includes ground school as well as “in-flight simulator” training in Learjets specially configured with programmable variable-stability flight control software. Calspan’s AM-URT is derived from real-world accidents presented in a safe airborne simulation environment. The training includes classroom instruction and in-flight training in an aerobatic Beech Bonanza and the modified Learjet 25.
Calspan training methods stem from 14 years of government- and industry-sponsored research into upset recovery techniques.