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ES Why does LightHawk require 1,000 hours when other volunteer pilot organizations require less?

Most charitable volunteer pilot organizations are transportation oriented, designed to move people or cargo between airports in flight profiles common from your first day of flying. In contrast, LightHawk flights are generally scenic in nature and may require the pilot to fly at lower altitudes (still around 1,000’ AGL minimum), maneuver for views of specific points on the ground, and in other ways fly flight profiles that are more challenging and less common than straight-line transport. After a significant amount of time flying, pilots have had exposure to a much wider variety of situations and have gained the expertise and confidence to say “no”, as well as to appropriately divide attention between flying and other demands. While any time requirement can be labeled “arbitrary”, LightHawk’s requirement is based on a number of respected statistical analyses of General Aviation safety, and has been upheld consistently by our board as the membership requirement for volunteer pilots. A majority of our volunteers substantially exceed this minimum requirement. 

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ES What happens during an orientation interview?

An experienced LightHawk pilot LightHawk staff will meet with you by phone to talk about the organization, our emphasis on safety, our flight planning process, expectations, paperwork, and reporting needs. We’ll discuss what you can expect as a LightHawk volunteer and emphasize your role as the PIC and sole operating authority on these flights. You also will learn about the more common flight profiles and we will discuss working with photographers and reporters. Generally, LightHawk wants to determine that you are passenger-oriented in your flying, that you have a good understanding of how LightHawk works and what to expect on a flight, and that you and your plane can represent LightHawk in a safe and professional manner. 

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ES Can I fly my experimental plane, balloon, or glider for LightHawk?

LightHawk currently excludes balloons and gliders from our operations due to the liability concerns they raise in the volunteer environment. In addition, aircraft such as gliders and balloons are, by their flight characteristics, usually not suitable for most flight requests we receive.

Experimental aircraft are currently prohibited from being used for LightHawk flights. 

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ES Can I become a LightHawk pilot if I don't own a plane?

Yes, in some instances, but this is usually discouraged. LightHawk has a few members of its volunteer pilot corps who do not own planes or who do not carry insurance minimums on their plane and therefore cannot use them for LightHawk flights. Almost all these pilots are qualified to fly LightHawk's owned aircraft in Latin America and our other regions. At present, LightHawk is primarily recruiting pilots with their own aircraft since they have substantially greater flexibility in their ability to respond to flight requests and to the schedule changes that frequently occur.

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ES What are the insurance requirements for using a rented or borrowed aircraft to conduct LightHawk flights?

There are important steps that must be taken before you can fly a rented or borrowed aircraft for LightHawk, and these steps are challenging to complete without adequate lead-time. If your own aircraft is inoperable, renting or borrowing on short notice is not usually an option.

In advance of flying a rented or borrowed aircraft, you will need to provide LightHawk with proof of insurance that demonstrates that you, as the user, and any passengers aboard are covered to the same liability limits required to be carried on aircraft owned by LightHawk volunteer pilots (USD 1 million per incident, $100,000 minimum per person). In addition, LightHawk must be named as an "additional insured," just as is required for pilots who fly their own planes.

Pilots who rent usually handle this by acquiring a renters or non-owned aircraft liability policy. LightHawk must be added to their renter’s policy as an additional insured. 

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ES How does the "additional insured" requirement work? Will it cost more?

LightHawk requires that you add us to your policy as an "additional insured" primarily so that our legal defense costs are covered if we are sued because you had an accident. Part 135 operators who do any government flying will be familiar with this and may already have multiple additional insured’s on their policy. It is increasingly becoming a standard for all pilots to have to add additional insured’s such as airports and hangar owners.

All legal expenses (your own and those of any additional insured parties) for litigation related to an accident are covered in addition to the liability limits in your policy. There is generally no limit on the amount the insurance company can spend defending itself against the claim, and this expense doesn't reduce your liability coverage. The cost of the claim settlement itself is what is charged against your liability limits.

The only time adding an additional insured to your policy might affect your financial exposure is if the additional insured were deemed to be negligent in an accident. As the PIC, however, you are 100% responsible for the flight, and the circumstances under which LightHawk could be assigned any portion of the negligence associated with an accident in your aircraft are very difficult to imagine. This is one of the reasons LightHawk rigorously avoids placing itself in any position where it could be seen as the "controller" or "operator" of the flights -- instead, LightHawk constantly reinforces your role as the PIC and your responsibility for all aspects of flights, preserving the integrity of your insurance.

There is usually no increase in premiums associated with adding LightHawk as an additional insured, but it varies by broker and underwriter and can also depend on what you think LightHawk flights are all about and how you communicate about LightHawk with your insurance broker. Most LightHawk flights should correspond to what is commonly called a "scenic flight," a fair-weather daytime flight, usually at or above 1,000’ AGL. Terminology such as "air survey" or "resource recon" can have connotations or commercial definitions that imply a much more aggressive type of low-level flying than would be characteristic of LightHawk flights and can influence what your insurance company understands LightHawk's flight profiles to be.

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