Well, it’s just now beginning to impact insurance. The pilot shortage, that is. After years of debate, it appears a bona fide lack of highly-experienced pilots might be closer to reality.
Many business aircraft operators we talk to are having a harder and harder time finding and keeping talent in the cockpit. This is becoming directly evident to us as well, based upon some of the submissions for pilot candidates we’ve received for insurance approval over the last several months.
The “magic number” of 1,500 hours total time has become a magic number indeed this side of the post-Flight 3407, Congressional push to amend airline pilot minimum qualifications. As pilots near this mark, once considered minimums for business jet SICs, many are scooped up by the regional carriers. This is having a larger impact on general aviation than ever before as companies have to pay more than ever before to keep a qualified crew.
And when their pilot does head for the exit? The reserve pool waiting in the wings for their wings typically does not bring nearly the same amount of experience to the interview table. Requests to add lower-time professional pilots are becoming more frequent, with some underwriters struggling to adjust.
Factor in the expense of sending said pilot to training and you can understand the trepidation of hiring managers who wonder whether they’ll be able to get a return on that investment or are they merely a short-term stepping stone for someone’s future that does not include them.
From an insurance perspective, underwriters of course always have more “skin in the game” than the regulators. So even though the FAA minimums might be met in terms of experience and training, for the millions of dollars underwriters often have on the line, they continue to look for much more than those minimums – pilot shortage or not.
A well-thought-out transition plan goes a long way to help smooth any underwriting turbulence that might be encountered when it comes time to hire new pilots and co-pilots who are a bit light on experience. Always best to talk this through with your broker before making that all-important hire decision.