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Pilot Liability: Two Common Causes of Small Plane Accidents

Pilot Liability: Two Common Causes of Small Plane Accidents


Accidents will always happen. Whether from driving a car or flying a small aircraft, the risk is always there. When flying, the best you can do to prevent this risk from becoming reality, is to continually hone your skills, be relentlessly methodical, and exercise caution. In addition, it’s helpful to understand the common causes of small plane accidents so that you can avoid the mistakes of others. Here are two important ones:

Pilot Error

The majority of accidents are due to pilot error. Piloting a small aircraft is a complex task that presents many opportunities to make mistakes. These often occur during descent and landing, when the plane must transition out of level flight, descend, approach the runway, and then land. The next most likely time for an accident is taking off from the runway and climbing out. Both take off and landing can be further complicated by weather effects such as poor visibility or high wind.

Inexperienced pilots account for many small plane accidents. This may come about from overconfidence that places them in situations that exceed their abilities. Some pilots mistake the length of time that they’ve had a pilot’s license with actual flight-hours. That is, they fly infrequently but overestimate their skills, which can make them to do overambitious things.

Poor preflight planning and inspection are another type of pilot error. It may occur because of distraction, complacency, or inexperience. This then sets the pilot up for an accident at some later point in his flight. Other pilot errors include oversights such as running out of fuel, using the wrong fuel, overloading the plane, or taking off in a poorly balanced plane.

Mechanical Error

While mechanical error from defective parts is not unheard of, it’s more likely caused by failing to keep up with maintenance, and/or sloppy updating of maintenance records. The preflight inspection covers a number of vital components such as the free movement of the elevator and rudder, flap and aileron integrity, tire condition, landing lights, pitot tube, and so forth. Treating this inspection as so much busy work can cause the pilot to overlook a serious mechanical problem.

Sometimes an accident happens because of an honest slipup of your own or of someone you trust. Even if you aren’t the sort of person that can “slipup,” the risk of a small plane accident will never be zero. It’s always there, and when an accident happens, you may be held liable for what happens to your passenger or someone on the ground.

It’s essential that you protect the financial well-being of yourself and your family with adequate pilot liability insurance. For information about pilot liability insurance and how it applies to your situation, contact us.