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ChprPlt

Liability for signing off students?

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Hey guys I'm a new CFI. I've yet to sign anyone off for Solo etc. It seems that my past CFI's and my fellow co-workers are worried about signing off students and having them ball up a helo. My question is what is the real liability? What could happen to the CFI if a solo student makes an error and has an accident? I have never seen anything in the FARAIM regarding this. I've heard the "your on my ticket for 3 years" but never seen any documentation to back that up. Of course I want to make sure my students are prepared prior to solo but I don’t want to hold them back longer then needed for the fear that it could come back to haunt me.

 

**for this discussion please assume adequate instruction was given by the CFI

 

 

thanks!

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ChprPlt, make sure that you have a record of teaching your student all of the part 61 req's for solo. As an Experienced Instructor, I always had one of my peers give a student a pre-solo check ride! Do your job correctly, judge your students ability and move them forward. We all accept a lot of moral responsibilities that you may have to answer to in Court down the road. Be thorough and professional and let them fly! Mike

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Thanks Mike! I keep really good records on each lesson covered: what they did well and what they needed improvement on. My company also has a pre-solo check usually done with the cheif CFI. I figure if the cheif CFI agrees there ready for solo I should be covered.

Edited by ChprPlt

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Yes there is some liability attached but for a case to go anywhere, the student or insurance company or deceased's family would have to prove that you were negligent in your duties. The best defense to this is to keep very detailed notes as has already been suggested. I instruct in business jets (FlightSafety) and at the end of every session we write notes about what was covered, what was done well, and what things needed to be worked on...we then require the student to sign the notes page indicating that (s)he has read it -- maybe not a bad idea to adapt a similar system for your students. It's too bad that we have to be this "defensive" but that's the litigious society that we live in.

 

CL

 

PS - A little bit different than soloing a student but I had a guy crash and kill himself in a Cessna that I had signed off for his Private and I didn't hear one peep from anyone. I had a friend that had a student bang up an airplane on a solo flight and he was contacted by an attorney (for the insurance company I believe) but the questioning was limited to "Did you endorse him for solo" and "Was he proficient in all of the required presolo manuevers" and that was it.

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Thanks for the info CL. I will continue to keep good records and may start having my students sign the paperwork as you suggested. Thanks for confirming for me that as long as I do my job then I've got nothing to worry about.

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Hey guys I'm a new CFI. I've yet to sign anyone off for Solo etc. It seems that my past CFI's and my fellow co-workers are worried about signing off students and having them ball up a helo. My question is what is the real liability? What could happen to the CFI if a solo student makes an error and has an accident? I have never seen anything in the FARAIM regarding this. I've heard the "your on my ticket for 3 years" but never seen any documentation to back that up. Of course I want to make sure my students are prepared prior to solo but I don’t want to hold them back longer then needed for the fear that it could come back to haunt me.

 

**for this discussion please assume adequate instruction was given by the CFI

thanks!

Very few pilots, or schools for that matter have deep enough pockets to be attractive targets for a liability suit.

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I'm sure there are plenty of products available out there for you to use. Our school uses ASA grade folders which allow for a simple 1-5 grading structure as well as a notes section for each lesson, ground for flight. Both the instructor and student sign them. Pretty obvious in a 141 environment, but it would work just as well 61 for both CYA and a backup in the case of lost or incorrect logbooks.

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Hey guys I'm a new CFI. I've yet to sign anyone off for Solo etc. It seems that my past CFI's and my fellow co-workers are worried about signing off students and having them ball up a helo. My question is what is the real liability? What could happen to the CFI if a solo student makes an error and has an accident? I have never seen anything in the FARAIM regarding this. I've heard the "your on my ticket for 3 years" but never seen any documentation to back that up. Of course I want to make sure my students are prepared prior to solo but I don’t want to hold them back longer then needed for the fear that it could come back to haunt me.

 

**for this discussion please assume adequate instruction was given by the CFI

thanks!

 

I have never heard of anything coming back to a CFI after an accident. Not that it couldn't happen,

but people seem to understand the assumed risk in flight training. Think back to your first solo.

I can guarantee your instructor was more nervous than you. It's all part of the game. When

they're ready, they're ready. Most accidents happen to rated pilots. Let them go after the

examiner or FAA for deeming them qualified to act as a PIC.

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If anything happens, it's gonna be your butt. Seriousely.

 

If the student bends or breaks the helicopter, someone is going to have to pay the deductible or for the repair. Most schools write it into some sort or solo/rental agreement that if a student/renter is negligent, they pay it. Good luck collecting. If a student has any smarts whatsoever, they'll just say you didn't train them well enough and therefore, you're the negligent one. Hopefully, the school you work for will just eat the deductible or pay for the repairs and not go after you for it.

 

If a student gets injured or dies, you better believe the family is going to come after you. They're going to sue you, the school, the helicopter manufacturer, the engine manufacturer, and so on. They probably won't win, but it's going to cost you lots of money and time to defend yourself. Again, hopefully your school with defend you. Very important: Are you an employee or an independent contractor???? If you're the latter, you're on your own.

 

We're in a new world now where their have been pilots and mechanic charged with CRIMINAL negligence. Yeah, criminal. You'd have to screw up pretty bad as an instructor to be accused of that, but if there's political connection in the family, get ready.

 

I read an article once about a guy who got his private and a plane. Flew it drunk with friends, crashed and died. Families sued the instructor, DPE, & school because they did not teach him not to fly drunk. Ridiculous? Abso-freakin-lutely. Don't know how it came out.

 

As far as the FAA goes......be prepared for a 609 ride at minimum. It's your student, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE for them. They can do very little to your student, so that's why they'll come after you. We had a student take his own little x-country one time. My co-worker endorsed him to go to the practice area and back, no where else. Instead, he flew about 15 miles east of that and was buzzing his parent's house. Off-duty cop spotted him and reported it. He lied to the FAA, told them we said he could do it, even though he wasn't signed off for it. That 5000 hr instructor (without any prior violations or complaints) got a 609 ride. Point being.......paperwork was in perfect order, presolo test was good, presolo agreement signed, school had a very good relationship with the FAA at the time, student lied, instructor paid for it.

 

Get AOPA's legal services plan. That will pay for a few hours of consultation for an FAA enforcement actions plus a percentage of a the FAA and NTSB hearings. The AOPA CFI insurance doesn't cover helicopters and only covers accidents that you're involved in. You can look at blanket personal liability insurance, but that's gonna cost you at least 5-10K a year. If you don't have any money or assets, don't worry about it. Soon as I got a house and money, I quit instructing and working on & inspecting aircraft. I can't risk it. Not just the liability, but if the FAA did anything with my certificate due to a student, my employer is going fire me because I can't fly. Too much to risk.........

 

Sorry to scare you with all this, but it's the unfortunate truth. It's a sue-happy world, with anything, not just the aviation community (be glad you're not in the medical field.) All the more reason to CYA. Cover yourself with as much paperwork as you can, never let a student you don't trust 100% fly solo or take a checkride, and get the hell out of instructing as soon as you can.

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I have heard of one story where the family of an accident victim did send their lawyers after a CFI (airplane). I heard it second hand, so I may not be up on all the details, and maybe someone here is more familiar with the outcome...

Somewhat of a far fetched, but true story. A student that was signed off for solo took a plane out solo after a frat party. He was drunk. The student was no longer taking instruction and his solo endorsement was still good. The student was killed as a result of the attempted flight.

 

The instructor gave the student a written solo test. In court, the solo test was presented as evidence. The instructor had failed to include any questions about using alcohol before flight, and how that set of circumstances is covered in the FAR's. The family won the case as presented. ...But later the instructor appealed the case, and in the appeal the judge overturned the initial ruling in favor of the instructor on the basis that it common knowledge the people are not to operate a car under the influence of alcohol, so they should not expect that it is OK to operate an aircraft under the influence, just because an instructor did not quiz a student about that aspect of the law.

Granted the story had a successful outcome for the instructor, he did go through a living h#$$ on earth. The story is a red flag that you should make wise judgments as a CFI in 1) how you endorse all logbook entres, 2) making sure you give a written pre-solo test covering all areas, 3) keeping notes on your students progress, and 4) just making good assessments of the maturity, attitude, and aptitude of your students. ...and anything else I may have left out. :P

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PS: The "You're on my ticket for three years," statement doesn't mean anything. The FARs say that you have to maintain student records for 36 months. Just because you can throw those records away, doesn't mean that you can right them off from your life completely. They still have their logbooks. I'd keep my records on them forever.

 

Also, one thing I forgot to mention........You can make solo endorsement as restrictive as you want. You can say they can only fly with 10+miles viz, 10000+ ft ceilings, calm winds, only the third tuesday of every month, WHATEVER you want! If you want to restrict them to a certian N-number, exact amount of ballast weight, minimum amount of fuel, you can! You can make your endorsements expire anytime under 90days as well. I used to put "prior approval required for each flight." That way they could never go take a helicopter anytime they wanted or go use their own or someone else's helicopter on my endorsement.

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Delorean,

 

Thanks for the info!

 

-If my student is solo they are responsible for any damage per their contract. They can pay an insurance premium from the school to protect themselves if they wish.

 

-I'm an employee so I have some protection there

 

-I'll look into the AOPA insurance

 

-I will keep good records and let them solo when they are ready but not prior too. I would think that once the DPE gives them their private it could fall back on that DPE? Just a thought

 

-Oh I do plan on getting out of CFI ASAP....just need more hours in the logbook!!

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PS: The "You're on my ticket for three years," statement doesn't mean anything. The FARs say that you have to maintain student records for 36 months. Just because you can throw those records away, doesn't mean that you can right them off from your life completely. They still have their logbooks. I'd keep my records on them forever.

 

Also, one thing I forgot to mention........You can make solo endorsement as restrictive as you want. You can say they can only fly with 10+miles viz, 10000+ ft ceilings, calm winds, only the third tuesday of every month, WHATEVER you want! If you want to restrict them to a certian N-number, exact amount of ballast weight, minimum amount of fuel, you can! You can make your endorsements expire anytime under 90days as well. I used to put "prior approval required for each flight." That way they could never go take a helicopter anytime they wanted or go use their own or someone else's helicopter on my endorsement.

 

 

 

Thats a really good idea to restrict the solo endorsement...I'm doing that! Thanks for the insight

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Granted the story had a successful outcome for the instructor, he did go through a living h#$$ on earth. The story is a red flag that you should make wise judgments as a CFI in 1) how you endorse all logbook entres, 2) making sure you give a written pre-solo test covering all areas, 3) keeping notes on your students progress, and 4) just making good assessments of the maturity, attitude, and aptitude of your students. ...and anything else I may have left out. :P

 

 

Nbit:

 

How do you recommend endorsing all logbook entries? Usually I just put in the time, what maneuvers where completed on that lesson, etc. Anything else I should add (in the students logbook) to cover myself?

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Nbit:

 

How do you recommend endorsing all logbook entries? Usually I just put in the time, what maneuvers where completed on that lesson, etc. Anything else I should add (in the students logbook) to cover myself?

 

Basically, I was implying that you further restrict the endorsements you give students, just as Delorean stated. I require prior approval and use common sense on a case by case basis. Say "only normal approaches" or something like that, if that makes you feel comfortable. The choices are yours. It is a sue happy world we're in these days. ...Unfortunately.

 

I remember Tim Tucker at Robinson saying once to write the endorsements for solo as restrictive as it makes sense. Dynamic rollovers are one of the more common accidents for less experienced pilots. It might likely feel very uncomfortable to see your student go off practicing slope operations once he/she started out solo. I've seen a student try it though (not mine), thinking it was fair game and OK. Ask yourself what makes sense.

Edited by nbit

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Ok Nisbit thanks. It's crazy to think what some students will try solo. Personally I never did anything I wasnt authorized to do. I will make sure they know what they are allowed to do and what will happen if they break the rules.

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-If my student is solo they are responsible for any damage per their contract. They can pay an insurance premium from the school to protect themselves if they wish.

 

That'll never fly......You can have them sign a dozen contracts like that, but they can ALWAYS claim they weren't trained well enough. It would never hold up in court.

 

Besides, if it was truely a solo TRAINING accident, I don't think the student should be held responsible. If they caught a gust of wind, balled it up, and you said it was all right for them to fly that day, that's your fault, not there's. What if they got a chip light, then rolled it over trying to land it off airport? I know this is a case by case bases thing, but that's why a blanket statement like "students pay for all damage" will never hold up. Students should only pay for damage due to negligence and anything purposely against the solo agreement, endorsement, or FARs. All the rest is the cost of doing business [unfortunately].

 

In my company, if a pilot hot starts, do you think they take it out of his paycheck? Nope, that could be up to 5 yrs of his salary depending on the degree/duration. Proabably if you forgot to close the throttle before hitting the starter (since it's on the checklist twice.) Other than that, cost of doing business if it was an accident........

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Its been a while since I've read the contract but I think the student is responsible for a % of the damage, not 100% as I stated above. Of course I know they can fight it in court.

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Its been a while since I've read the contract but I think the student is responsible for a % of the damage, not 100% as I stated above. Of course I know they can fight it in court.

 

At the School I did my fixed wing training I had to sign a waiver every solo, and everytime i took that companies planes that said I would pay for 5$ an hour hobbs, or the 5000$ deductible your choice that you choose before the flight,...that would be for 500,000 property 500,000 liability, and 500,000 personal injury I think I am not 100%..... that never said that my family couldnt sue if something happen to me right... has anyone ever heard of a company that requires you to free the company and employees of all liablity if you crash.... or is the company and employee usally protected anyway because of the structure of the business... and would that hold up in court ...I dont know much about the business parts of this type just curious.

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Most aircraft rental agreements contain a liability release section... It is debatable how well they will hold up in court, and you really don't know until you get into that situation.

 

As you say, your family did not sign that agreement, so they can sue to their hearts content. You cannot sign away someone else's rights. Ditto with children, parents generally cannot sign away their rights, and since they are minors, they cannot do so either.

 

This is what insurance is for, and why flight schools have it to protect themselves. It will pay for both claims and defense of claims. Given the price of liability insurance (cheap) compared to hull coverage (expensive), I suspect that insurance companies are much more worried about damaged helicopters than they are lawsuits.

 

Our rental contract says that you're responsible for the damage if it was due to negligence or intentional breaking of the rules. If it was outside your control (an act of God), then you're not responsible for the damage.

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FYI- the "AOPA" insurance is really AIG insurance, which you can get through any reputable aviation insurance broker. AOPA's agency paid for the AOPA title, but other than that they are a typical broker, and they have a high volume of policies and thus a little more leverage than the small guys. AIG offers helicopter CFI insurance, which you can add physical damage (hull coverage) to in addition to the liability limits of your choice. It is obviously more expensive than airplane CFI insurance, but its still a valid option. I think for basic liability limits (250,000 or 500,000 if memory serves me correctly) you'll pay about $1,000 a year, and the physical damage coverage is in addition to that, and can get expensive. If you're real low time the coverage is hard to get, but if you have around 400-500 hours it should be doable.

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CFIs should ONLY have to provide their own insurance if working as a contractor. To all the gloom

amd doomers out there: You have CHOSEN to be a flight instructor, which of course leaves you

open to liability. Use your best judgement and keep perfect records. If you are that worried about

potential liability, get your hours some other way. I worked with a guy that accumulated over

a 1000 hours as an instructor and never signed one person off for a checkride. Before I worked

there, I contacted the school about a flight review. Unfortunately, I got him. After he told me

what a big favor he was doing me by leaving himself open to liability by doing my FR, I then

flew a couple of frustrating hours with him. His idea of a FR was a checkride, well beyond FAA standards. During steep turns he told me I stalled the airplane and we would have to head back! (this was fixed wing, and the guy seemed to hate helicopters). Got another instructor and had a nice

experience and learned a lot, too. Use common sense. If you prepare someone the best that

you can, don't be unreasonable, and let them fly. It's out of your hands. And yes, no open

ended PIC endorsements for rated pilots.

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Like some have said, records for 36 months but you are on the hook for much longer, as long as you are alive.

 

Being an NTSB trained aircraft accident investigator I can tell you that I have been assigned to go and find all of the main CFIs that the pilot used and interview them. This is a common practice and as a matter of fack, required. It has been in some cases 25 years and I found the primary CFIs. If the CFIs are dead, that is all you can do but you go and try.

 

So at the very least you will be interviewed and have to provide information. Then comes the court battles, you will be named and if lucky you will be dropped later from the battle as you probably will not have deep enough pockets.

 

However, you will loose sleep, hair, life expectandency and money during this ordeal.

 

So my advise is to be professional, follow an approved training program, have stage checks by another CFI and keep very detailed records.

 

Good luck.

 

edspilot

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Here's a good link: http://www.thecfi.com/Tiger%20by%20the%20Tail.pdf

 

Title: Flight Instructor Negligence: Does this Tiger have a Tail?

 

(Prepared for 1996 SMU Air Law Symposium)

 

It is a long read but there are actual legal references in there. I recommend checking out the website as well.

 

http://www.thecfi.com/welcome.htm

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CFIs should ONLY have to provide their own insurance if working as a contractor. To all the gloom

amd doomers out there: You have CHOSEN to be a flight instructor, which of course leaves you

open to liability. Use your best judgement and keep perfect records. If you are that worried about

potential liability, get your hours some other way. I worked with a guy that accumulated over

a 1000 hours as an instructor and never signed one person off for a checkride. Before I worked

there, I contacted the school about a flight review. Unfortunately, I got him. After he told me

what a big favor he was doing me by leaving himself open to liability by doing my FR, I then

flew a couple of frustrating hours with him. His idea of a FR was a checkride, well beyond FAA standards. During steep turns he told me I stalled the airplane and we would have to head back! (this was fixed wing, and the guy seemed to hate helicopters). Got another instructor and had a nice

experience and learned a lot, too. Use common sense. If you prepare someone the best that

you can, don't be unreasonable, and let them fly. It's out of your hands. And yes, no open

ended PIC endorsements for rated pilots.

 

That actually depends a lot on how the flight school set up their insurance. If the named insured includes employees, and the flight instructor is an employee and not a contractor, they do not need renters insurance. If, on the other hand, the instructor is simply named on the policy as a pilot, they are not actually covered, as only the named insured is covered while the named pilot is operating the aircraft. In this case the CFI would want cfi renter's insurance, which is really non-owned insurance that would cover the CFI while operating the flight school's aircraft. Many pilots feel that they are covered when they are a named pilot, and this is a common misconception. The only way a pilot is truly covered is if they are an additional insured with a waiver of subrogation, or if they are an employee on a policy whose language for the named insured includes "employees"

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