In this case, CPA Sr. Vice-President Doug Rice recommended the association monitor the situation but not take any action. In talking to several pilots based at Hollister, he discovered that the situation relates to a few specific users rather than the entire airport community.
It is unclear if the situation is politically motivated against individuals or the airport, but in any case the city council used poor judgment in allowing a single member to render a professional opinion to the council. The councilman?s comments to the media were inflammatory and are more appropriate for uninsured/under-insured drivers, since driving a car is also a privilege, not a right. In this case, the city council and city manager exercised poor judgment as there was a clear conflict of interest and the council member should have recused himself from the issue. The council member did, however, bring up an interesting point that all pilots intuitively realize but seldom use when discussing airport preservation. Rental of an aircraft is not like renting a car. For a car, the minimum insurance requirement is $15,000/$30,000 (per person/per accident) with $10,000 property damage. Renting an aircraft not only has insurance considerations, but also license, medical and BFR review (Pilot medically certified and flight tested no less than every 2 years), and aircraft check out requirements. The pilot must also maintain flight currency within the last 90 days to carry passengers. Aircraft must be licensed annually and, if rented for instruction, have periodic checks in between. Imagine if you needed to comply with all of these items every time you wanted to rent a car. There are several facts regarding aircraft insurance and your airport which you should be aware of:
1. The airport creates the rules and regulations and has responsibility to enforce the based users equally. It is preferable that the rules be written in a cooperative manner with input from the users. In this case, the rules are on the books but are not being properly enforced.
2. The airport has a right to require insurance. The standards must be ‘reasonable.’ For example, the airport should allow aircraft in non-airworthy condition (restoration or construction) to get non-flight insurance. The airport must protect itself and other aircraft owners should damage be caused to airport structures or other aircraft in a non-flight incident (i.e. fire, blast, runaway aircraft during taxi). In addition, an insurance certificate can be sent to city yearly listing covered pilots, open pilot requirements and adding the city (or airport operator) as an additional insured.
3. The users have the right to expect that insurance requirements are ‘reasonable.’ Liability insurance can be bought up to certain limits ($500,000 for non-flight or $1 Million flight at ‘reasonable’ rates. Requirements for liability insurance above these levels should be considered excessive and possible discriminatory in nature.
4. Attempting to use insurance, as a means of denying access to the airfield is illegal. Federal jurisdiction and pre-emption prevent restrictions of access the runways and taxiways of an airport. Acceptance of federal grants for Runways, Taxiways, and ramps or any other facilities requires that the airport remain accessible to the public – subject to safety and security restrictions. If there is any question regarding these issues, the FAA, not the airport manager, is the final arbiter.
Pilots are responsible citizens who have a significant investment both in their aircraft and in the preservation of their airport. To paint them as otherwise without concrete facts damages the credibility of those in government who oversee our valuable aviation resources. Users, airport staff and airport operators must work together to develop operational rules and regulations that ensure the continued operation of an important transportation asset. CPA, in coordination with our local chapters and member organizations, will continue to offer our assistance in addressing these issues.