Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Light-Sport Chronicles: CSI Insurance: Excogitations On LSA Crashes, Part 1


What do three years of a top LSA insurer’s data tell us about sport flight accidents?


lscTooling around the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo (check out my blog, Light-Sport Hangar Flyin’), I ran into Mike Adams, vice president of underwriting for Avemco Insurance Company (www.avemco.com). Adams was on scene to present what Avemco has learned, based on three years of data, from S-LSA accidents.
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ONE IMPORTANT LESSON. Three years of S-LSA data demonstrate that pilots need to recognize and respect the inherent differences between GA and light-sport airplanes.

Tooling around the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo (check out my blog, Light-Sport Hangar Flyin’), I ran into Mike Adams, vice president of underwriting for Avemco Insurance Company (www.avemco.com). Adams was on scene to present what Avemco has learned, based on three years of data, from S-LSA accidents. I wanted an expert’s overview on what’s causing LSA mishaps and where pilots and industry can improve. The old bottom line holds true, whatever schoolyard you play in: The fewer accidents, the less it costs all of us. After talking with Adams, I’m betting you’ll be as surprised at his report as I was.

“The first thing is this,” he told me by phone after the show, “all my conclusions come from Avemco’s data. We don’t have access to other companies’ data.”

The first surprise is that Avemco has lost money on LSA insurance for all three of the years from which the data was mined—and expects that trend to continue for another one to two years.

“We anticipated at least three years of loss going in,” said Adams. “We want the industry to thrive; we plan to be in it, to work with the industry and to help establish a thriving market. Part of achieving that is to let the industry know what we’re discovering from our claims so that it can address challenges and make products more viable to a broader market.”

Avemco’s data draws on 565 policy years of S-LSA insurance coverage. A policy year is one airplane insured for one year.

It’s important to note that the Avemco study looks at only S-LSA, not E-LSA, accidents. It also doesn’t cover flight instructors, dealers or FBOs. All claims paid have been to private owners flying LSA for personal pleasure.

The second surprise: Accident-wise, how well are LSA pilots stacking up against general aviation pilots? The answer is...not so well. “We’ve determined the frequency of loss in tricycle-gear LSA to be twice as bad as the general aviation fleet. Compared to Cessna 152s and 172s, Piper Cherokees, Grummans and so on, an S-LSA has the potential for an accident twice as often as a general aviation airplane.” Furthermore, Adams reported, tailwheel S-LSA models have a frequency of loss 4.5 times as bad as their GA counterparts!

“This was baffling to me,” Adams admitted. “After all, there are lots of tailwheel LSA. Two of the leaders in the market have said they build essentially carbon copies of the original Piper Cub and Super Cub. So something was different—but what?”





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