Why aviation insurance rates are going up and what YOU can do to get better rates

Why aviation insurance rates are going up and what YOU can do to get better rates

I recently did some research for an upcoming aviation safety presentation on the top 10 causes of aviation insurance claims. I had the opportunity to sit down with a major carrier’s claims and underwriting departments to get some answers.


Insurance carriers insure risks across the spectrum – anything from single engine planes used for pleasure all the way up to airline and space. When a loss occurs in space, for example, it affects everyone’s rates. We went from a soft to a hard market, and the market correction has been challenging for everyone.
Over the past few years we have been continuing to see a rise of general aviation accidents. When I asked the insurance company what they think is the leading cause of claims, they said recent experience, proficiency and time in make and model.


This brings us to our challenge: you need experience to get experience. For the most part, insurance companies are not allowing people without make and model experience to be insured without training. This doesn’t mean you fly without insurance – and I highly recommend you don’t fly without insurance! – you just need to get proficient and get training prior to solo flight.
Feel free to send any questions or comments!

Video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6kpT-ZcJ58&t=2s

Sarah is an aviation insurance agent for Clemens Insurance Agency and is also a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6500 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying and instructing in her Super Cub, Patches, and her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.

How to Become a Ferry Pilot: 10 Steps

How to Become a Ferry Pilot: 10 Steps

I have seen a lot of posts on social media recently about people looking to get into ferry flying. I did a video on this several years ago where I talked about how I got into it, and while the industry has changed, many things have still stayed the same. I do believe in mentoring and helping the aviation community and the people coming into the industry now, and hope that we continue to mentor our young instead of trying to eat them alive!

If you are trying to get jobs, these are some things to think about:

  1. You need experience to get experience. This seems impossible, but there are ways to get experience without having it.
  2. Be willing to take an entry level job. I know that Van Bortel is often hiring ferry pilots. The pay isn’t great, but they will train you and you will get a lot of experience. 
  3. Become a CFI. Even if you don’t want to teach, many times the owners of recently purchased aircraft need training and they will choose a ferry pilot who can sign their logbook over someone who can’t.
  4. Be smart and use good judgment. Employers and customers aren’t impressed with harrowing tales of narrowly escaping danger. I have people who interview with my organization who brag about times they flew through a thunderstorm and escaped it or they flew with known mechanical problems and somehow pulled it off, and this is not a good thing to an employer.
  5. If you want to get into International flying, you will need to go with someone who has done it before. While Canada/Mexico are fairly easy, I know as an insurance agent and ferry pilot that an insurance company won’t cover a pilot for a crossing without ocean crossing experience. The only way to get this is to work with a company who does it and trains people (there are plenty out there – the Flight Academy is to name one). People can be guarded on having new pilots go along because they don’t want the competition, but the right candidate will find the right company to train them (don’t give up!). 
  6. Networking is everything. It’s rare that I have hired “off the street”, although I remember getting personalized letters through SNAIL MAIL from a candidate who showed incredible dedication and perserverence, and he has been a great ferry pilot. I knew I had to offer him a job or he would never give up! Other people I met through mutual friends, or even one that I had lunch with at a random picnic table at Oshkosh!
  7. Never turn down the opportunity to fly a new type. Having time in type is critical for insurance, so fly as many planes as you can.
  8. Specialize in something. Almost everyone can fly a Cessna 172 or PA28. While those type of planes do make up a significant amount of the market, the jobs end up in bidding wars and don’t pay that well… if you can even get the job! If you are the go to person for a turbine Bonanza… well then you can get the salary you want because very few people can get covered by insurance.
  9. The best money is in specialty aircraft and international. This means anything that is rare, needs a type rating, or goes overseas. Specialize in something and that will help you obtain jobs. While there might not be as many King Airs being sold as Cessna 172s, you will bring in a greater salary with something specialized.
  10. Never give up. Don’t get discouraged. Keep fighting for your dreams. I have a friend of mine who sent over 200 resumes out, all specifically tailored to employers, and finally got a job. Right now we have more pilots than jobs, but perseverance is key!

I hope this has been helpful. Good luck to everyone in their aviation career search!

Sarah is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6500 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying her Super Cub, Patches, and instructing her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Supply and Demand and the Falling Value of Pilots

Pilot Wanted: $10/hour!

I was recently perusing some aviation related groups on social media to find that a particular screenshot of a job opportunity had been making rounds. The screenshot detailed a job posting for a helicopter pilot to work part time for $10/hour. Throughout many groups, people both mocked the low pay, chastised those considering it, and many even offered their thoughts on how their career progression involved working for pennies putting their “dues in” toward a lucrative career. It was a stark contrast to the good times that we have seen over the past few years where pilots went from sub-par pay to prosperity and proliferating wages across the industry. While to many it is upsetting to see wages so low and no shortage of pilots willing to take it, we must remember that nobody is truly incorrect in their opinion toward the falling value of pilots we have been seeing since the pandemic started.

I recently had one of my ferry pilots reach out to me about some concerns he had in his local area. This ferry pilot was one of thousands who ended up without a job when one of the regional airlines ceased operations amid the pandemic. He was upset because there was another pilot who was employed and being paid full wages by an airline who was trying to take business from him. I talked to him and as we discussed it, I told him that it wasn’t unique that a pilot would only look out for themselves, and that there are many retired and active pilots out there that would take a job, perhaps if only to ease boredom regardless of pay, even if it meant taking income away from someone else who needed it. While we can debate the morality of such behavior, in a way we are asking for a form of collectivism in the industry when we ask others who aren’t financial struggling to not take jobs away from those who are. In fact, unions are the prime example of an effective way of pooling together to keep working conditions good and wages higher within an industry; but for the most part most aviation jobs outside of the airlines are not unionized. I remember someone advertising free ferry pilot services, and while many responses were negative toward the poster, I remember one particular comment of “since when we did we have a ferry pilot union?” That hit the nail on the head – supply & demand outside of unionism defines the going wages for a particular job. And at that, unions still feel the effects of supply & demand and are constantly adjusting for the current industry. In many cases recently, airline unions temporarily prevented furloughs by presenting temporary concessions to the pilot group.

Whenever there is a surplus of pilots, there will be a shortage of jobs. This is why we have seen falling wages across the board. And unfortunately, there will always be someone who will take those low wages as they are still receiving another form of compensation that is often overlooked in our industry – flight time and experience. When someone is faced with renting a plane or helicopter to meet the requirements or working for that experience at $10/hour, we can see the obvious choice for many, particularly our younger and lower time pilots. There used to be a jet operator in Houston that you could pay $15/hour to in order to sit right seat in the jet, which was required for their insurance! However, when pilots were in short supply, they ended up having to pay for the SIC instead of getting paid. This is the basic economics of supply and demand, something we are seeing the negative consequences of across the board.

This article is not meant to condemn those who are taking the low paying jobs or those seeking additional employment in spite of their income, this is merely a discussion of why we are seeing the changes we have all felt over the past few months. While Socrates debated with his brother that people’s behavior only exists for self-interest, I tend to think that we often have to choose a balance between our own needs and that of our industry. This isn’t always black and white and we often have to make decisions that are the best for our own lives and families, in addition to balancing its effect on our future. While many would love to see collectivism rise and we band together to rid the industry of opportunists paying low wages, while supply is high and demand is low this will continue to be the norm. With time the industry will continue to ebb and flow toward supply and demand, and in the future, there will be times of prosperity again where a shortage of pilots leads to high wages and great opportunities. While it’s easy to get discouraged by the falling wages, we must remember that perseverance is key and while fogging a mirror was the minimum in the past to get hired in may jobs, now comes the time to differentiate ourselves from the competition in order to be successful. This now comes through networking, hard work, and sacrifice; but in the end the reward is just as sweet.

Sarah is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6500 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying and instructing in her Super Cub, Patches, and her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.

Challenge, Resilience, and Triumph

Challenge, Resilience, and Triumph

Every time I hear “Whatever It Takes” by Imagine Dragons, I can’t help but to think of where I was where I first heard that song. 

It was a cold March in 2018 and I had just finished ferrying a Cessna 210 across the ocean to the Netherlands. It was my very first winter crossing, which started in February 2018 with my assistant chief pilot at the time whom I was training, Marcus Narcisse. Unfortunately, along the way we spent 4 days in the arctic with a mechanical issue in Iqualuit due to a mechanic’s error. Due to the delay, the weather had turned and there wasn’t going to be another window across the ocean for a few weeks, which is normally atypical since it’s often too cold in February/March to pick up ice but it was an unusually warm winter. With only a normally normally aspirated piston aircraft without flight into known icing protection, we had to wait it out for better weather and the cycle to flip over the North Atlantic. We ended up leaving Iceland and during the 2 weeks back in the USA, I attended the annual Women in Aviation conference held in Las Vegas. I had been trying for the 737 type rating scholarship for 2 years, having interviewed the year before and narrowly missing the award. I was trying so hard to make it to the major airlines, doing everything I could. I watched as the people around me with less experience got hired on, wondering when it was my turn and when I could stop taking the high risk ferry jobs. So for the 2nd year in a row, I interviewed at Women in Aviation for the International Society of Women Airline Pilots 737 type rating scholarship for the 2nd year in a row, and then headed out straight to Iceland afterward to finish the Cessna 210 ferry solo.

I had prayed hard for good weather, and for the first crossing in my life, actually had clear skies all the way to Iceland. I made it uneventfully to Rotterdam and then took the train to Amsterdam, where I decided to explore for a few days for a mini vacation after the trip. I found myself at the Ice Bar in Amsterdam, which is a popular tourist destination with a bar and seating area made exclusively of ice. I met a very nice couple from Sweden and we ended up hanging out. After exiting the ice bar, I sat down at the bar and heard “Whatever it Takes” for the first time, and pulled out my app to figure out the title of the song to download it. I then saw a voicemail on my phone from the scholarship coordinator. I had won the 737 scholarship! It was the first step in a series of events that eventually led me to interview and get hired on with my dream airline, and eventually start crossing the ocean in 757s and 767s instead of Cessna 210s.

At the Amsterdam Icebar

Whenever I hear that song, it reminds me of the challenge, resilience, and triumph when I faced an uncertain time when I was worried about my future and career. It’s a stark reminder of how I tried my best, was turned down with significant defeat multiple times, and didn’t give up; and finally made it to my dream. And the song “Whatever it Takes” had just become my motto – something to remind me of how I continued doing what it took to accomplish my dream. I know many of you out there are feeling the same now – knocked down, challenged, and wondering about your career and future. If there was one word to summarize the entire pilot career, it would be “resilience.” This career is full of challenges and defeats, but in the end, resilience will triumph. 


Sarah is currently a FAA Safety Team Lead Representative, NAFI Master Instructor, Gold Seal flight instructor, and 757/767 pilot for a Major U.S. airline. Sarah holds an ATP, CFI, CFII, MEI and has flown over 6400 hours. She holds a pilot license in 4 different countries (USA, Canada, Belize and Iceland – EASA) and has flown over 147 different types of airplanes in 20 different countries including oceanic crossings in small aircraft. She is the owner and chief pilot of FullThrottle Aviation; which started out in 2013 as a small flight school and grew to an international business with over 20 pilots moving airplanes around the world today. She continues to stay involved in general aviation through her leadership roles and volunteering for different aviation organizations. Although much of her flying is now professional in nature, she enjoys flying and instructing in her Super Cub, Patches, and her Cessna 170, Stanley, on her days off. As a regular fly-in attendee of Oshkosh, she enjoys the company and camaraderie that general aviation brings.