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Instructor liable just for being present in the aircraft?

I am referring to this post but this is a wider question.

In France unfortunately there has been a court ruling where an instructor sitting in the back seat (in a four seater) had been declared responsible for something that went wrong on a flight.

I recall reading of cases in the USA where an instructor (a CFI) flying as a passenger was held responsible post-accident by the FAA – because he was an instructor.

In a G-reg, UK, I have never heard of a problem with an FI being a passenger.

Obviously the non-instructor pilot needs to be legal to fly the aircraft, and if applicable needs to be specifically insured on it.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Was that a civil suit in the us (vs criminal)?

What if an instructor just wants to sit in a seat with controls, but not exercise control? Plenty of good reasons to do that.

It always seems to me you can only have one PIC, and that PIC can only be designated before the flight. Responsibilities need to be clearly defined before the flight.
I could imagine some system where by mutual agreement during the flight, command changes hands, but am not so comfortable with the idea.

Any situation where there might be ambiguity of who is ultimately in charge of making potentially live saving (/destroying) decisions is not 100% clear seems like a recipe for disaster.

Last Edited by Noe at 26 Oct 12:15

Was that a civil suit in the us (vs criminal)?

My memory, vague as ever, is that the FAA busted the CFI, so it was “criminal”. I think @NCYankee and possibly @mm_flynn might recollect it better.

But you make a very good point about a civil liability. Obviously I am not a lawyer but to win on that you would need some pretty hard evidence, because under ICAO you either have a PIC or you don’t, and the idea of an FI (or any other pilot with lots of hours) inducing the pilot to make a bad decision (which we all know is very possible) is not supported.

Also what works in the USA may not work in Europe, and different countries here may see things differently.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

When I am flown as passenger, I make it excruciatingly clear that that is my only role, and will not engage in any decision making or suggestions. If I am sitting in the front, I deliberately roll my seat right back on the runner and refuse any suggestion that I should check my brakes.

There have just been too many examples where either Command Gradient or devolvement of responsibility have resulted in accidents.

Mentoring is another thing, though, and that brings its own issues.

EGKB Biggin Hill

(I might make comments afterwards, though, particularly about use of avionics, but that is very much on the walk in from the aircraft.)

EGKB Biggin Hill

I think (personal view and not a lawyer!) that the whole instructor liability thing is totally over hyped and the insurance you can buy for it is just throwing money away. The only recent case I can think of in the UK is the helicopter instructor (see link below) who was falsifying records. If you are operating within the regulations, in a reasonably safe and professional manner and not deliberately flouting anything, I think you have little to fear. Any school or operation with any sense operates a tech log/authorisation sheet system that clearly identifies PIC/passenger/nature of flight etc.. anyway

Now retired from forums best wishes

Yes, but the reason I was asking is that my understand is that in a US civil court if someone could convince a jury that the instructor, by his inaction (while he was capable to do so) contributed to a loss to the estate of the other people, then he could be convinced to pay some damages.
While on a criminal court, the “PIC is chosen at start of flight, and things were all done in the rules” probably wouldn’t have gone further

But, I am not a l lawyer, and don’t have nearly as good of how the different judicial systems work (least in the US).

So many US civil jury decisions seem so bizarre that trying to plan one’s life in anticipation of them seems fruitless.

EGKB Biggin Hill

I am a PPL, member of an LAA Group of 6 owning and operating a Jodel DR1050. At present, one member is an instructor, and one is Instructor and examiner. I haven’t flown with either yet, but have logged as P1 hours with an instructor who was a member some years ago. There was no doubt who was in charge.
As regards changing who is P1 during the flight, I have logged short flights with a landing, but no take-off, when the booked-out low-hours NPPL in the left seat gave up, after several attempts at landing the tailwheel Jodel and handed me, passenger in the RH seat, control.
I logged Pu/t this month with the instructor, on a checkout on a rental Pa38, in his day job.
There should be a sensible rule about this.

EGPE, United Kingdom

I remember that a few months ago I talked to a friend who is a very good insurance expert on this. He told me straight out that any FI in Switzerland who does not take out a FI insurance is playing with his future and that of his family. No, he does not sell them, but as far as I remember AOPA does and they cost next to nothing or are even included in the membership fee but can make the difference in any case following an accident where the instructor even was pax. According to that, responsibility for a flight will be attributed to the highest experienced pilot on board no matter what his function is, apart from the clear cut case such as in an airliner if he is not part of the crew.

What any form of legal process will make out of this is anyone’s guess so I suppose to get insured for third party damage is a good idea.

LSZH, Switzerland
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