The Emergence of the (Very) Light Jet

Eclipse 500By PIM Aviation Insurance
Updated October 1, 2007

The aviation industry is in a period of innovation and new frontiers, with one of the hottest topics right now being the (Very) Light Jet.

Cessna and Eclipse are now delivering their light jets and a number of other manufacturers are well into their projects as well. Many of these aircraft are being sold to charter and per-seat airline operations, but a greater number of them are being sold to pilots who currently own single-engine turbine aircraft, multi-engine piston and high-performance single-engine aircraft. Most of these pilots do not have jet experience and some even lack multi-engine and turbine experience. This is going to present unique challenges to the aircraft insurance industry.

From the beginning, very light jet manufacturers recognized that insurance was going to be an issue in terms of the success of their aircraft sales. Eclipse’s Founder and CEO Vern Raburn first presented the Eclipse 500 to the Aviation Insurance Association (AIA) at its annual conference in May, 2001. There also was an underwriter and broker divisional meeting with Eclipse and Cessna representatives at the AIA conference in 2003. Underwriters have been meeting with the individual manufacturers periodically to track the progress of the aircraft and the training programs.

The key in the approach for most manufacturers is the training process and the Mentor Pilot program.

The formula for transition really consists of these six primary steps:

  1. Evaluation of Prior Experience and Abilities
  2. Recommended Pre-Initial School Training
  3. Initial School Training
  4. Mentor Pilot
  5. Required Additional Training (if any)
  6. Recurrent Training

The first section gives the training facility for a particular manufacturer the opportunity to truly evaluate each pilot on an individual basis. Instead of just evaluating total hours, they will evaluate what type of aircraft the pilot has been flying, how many hours per year, and various other proficiencies. If it is determined that more training is needed prior to initial flight school, the recommendations will be made at that time.

The next phase will be the initial school to include the type rating. In most cases this will be a ground and flight training process (including simulator training) that will last 10-14 days. Once the initial course has been passed and the type rating secured, the pilot will move on to the Mentor Pilot stage of the transition.

The Mentor Pilot stage of the training is something that is not completely new to the industry, but it will be much more formalized than in the past. Often in the past, if a pilot had a number of hours of dual to complete an owner would hire a more experienced pilot to fly several trips until all requirements were met. With the Mentor Pilot program, the Mentor Pilot will be well qualified and charged with determining the pilot’s competence in the actual aircraft. The Mentor Pilot could determine that the pilot is comfortable and competent either sooner or later than originally prescribed. In some cases there might be additional training requirements prescribed to a pilot prior to being approved. Once the Mentor Pilot is comfortable with the pilot, he will sign him off to fly the friendly skies.

The final step in the training process will be the annual or semi-annual recurrent training. All training programs will include at least an annual recurrent training requirement. Some situations may call for more frequent visits, or there could be an insurance incentive to attend recurrent every six months.

Manufacturers’ and insurers’ are comfortable that this type of training program will yield the best practical result possible for safety, reduction of risk, and aircraft sales in the new (Very) Light Jet market. Each manufacturer’s program will vary in many regards but have similar foundations. That being said, there will be no doubt some of the training programs will be stronger than others.

PIM will be at the forefront in providing competitive coverage and terms for owners of (Very) Light Jets.