One of the most exciting moments for many pilots is stepping up to that faster and higher-flying aircraft. Whether that jump is from a piston single-engine to multi-engine aircraft, piston to turbine, or turbo-prop to jet, finding available and affordable insurance coverage is a primary concern. In any of these scenarios there are considerations that should occur which will develop a plan to ensure a smooth transition.
The initial consideration involved should be if the pilot and plane are a suitable match. Has the pilot developed experience that would help prepare him/her for this type of aircraft? There are no defined criteria or magic numbers in terms of pilot experience for any one aircraft or insurance company. Underwriters examine the overall experience of the pilot in relation to the aircraft they are transitioning. Total logged hours, multi-engine time, retractable gear hours, turbine time, hours logged in jets, training, ratings and a number of other factors are all considered in the underwriting process. Underwriters will evaluate the big picture while applying a certain amount of weight to each consideration. For instance if a pilot is not as high in total logged hours as a pilot typically flying a turbo-prop aircraft, but they have a higher-than average amount of multi-engine time, the experience in multi-engine category will help offset the lower total logged hours. This principal can be applied to the other underwriting factors. The faster, higher performing and more expensive the aircraft, the heavier the level of scrutiny will be. These factors should all be considered when determining if the pilot and aircraft are a suitable match.
Training is the next major consideration involved in any aircraft transition. All insurance companies want to see that some sort of formal ground and flight training is satisfactorily completed along with an appropriate amount of initial (dual) operating experience. Some companies require simulator based training and others can be more flexible depending on the situation. The amount of experience the insurance company will be comfortable with will depend on how large the jump this transition will be for the pilot in terms of aircraft performance and value. It is important to present a strong transition plan to the underwriter that includes these two components. Too many times a transitional pilot is presented to an underwriter without a plan for training and initial operating experience. This will typically result in the underwriter declining to quote or providing terms much higher than they otherwise would have accepted. The underwriters will also insist upon recurrent training. In some transitions 6 month recurrent training may be required or used as a selling point to the underwriter.
With the dawn of (very) light jets, manufacturers understood that many of the potential pilots/owners would be transition pilots that may have problems obtaining reasonable insurance. Several of these manufacturers were very proactive in working with the insurance companies to help reduce that issue. For its CE-510 Mustang, Cessna developed a program in conjunction with Flight Safety that would provide the pilots with an appropriate transition to the aircraft which also provided the insurance company with a program that would satisfy their concerns. Before the pilot attends training they complete a pilot survey that goes beyond the considerations listed above to include other types of aviation training and experience. They apply these various experiences into a matrix called the Proficiency Index which evaluates if the should pilot obtain training for SIC only, PIC crew, or PIC single-pilot. Further they create a report that provides the pilot with a plan that will put them on track for PIC single-pilot. The pilot will go through training at Flight Safety and upon satisfactory completion of the program will then fly with a mentor pilot. This mentor pilot will provide the initial operating experience. When the mentor feels the pilot has satisfactorily completed the initial experience requirements to include a strong level comfort with the aircraft they will sign off the pilot to operate as has been dictated. If a pilot wants to improve the capabilities of their type rating they can complete the required experience, re-take the proficiency index, and if approved complete the next level of training.
Experience, training, and safety are the keys to transitioning into a new aircraft. Exercise these principals and make your plan for transition to achieve the best results. Before making the deposit on the next aircraft you should consult your insurance agent to help determine the feasibility of the transition and develop your plan.