Buddy, Can You Spare an Airplane?

You’re a fortunate pilot: you own your own airplane, but don’t kid yourself, eventually someone is going to ask if they can fly it. You may really want to share your good fortune with others, but you also need to protect yourself, and your airplane. Aside from what brand of ant-acid you prefer, there are four major points you should you consider before letting someone else fly your aircraft?

Foremost, you need to assure yourself the borrowing pilot is safe in the airplane. You don’t want him/her to hurt anyone, and you don’t want your airplane damaged. Before letting even a good friend fly your airplane you should:

1. Review his/her logbook to see that the pilot is qualified. ‘Qualified’ will have different meanings depending on the complexity of your airplane — look at the pilot’s total flight time, total time in airplanes similar to yours, and total time ‘in type.’

How… The Three ‘C’s Of Safety

Currency: Review his/her logbook to see that the pilot is current. This protects the pilot, and your investment. Don’t let someone who does not have a current Flight Review, medical certificate and landing currency fly your aircraft. Remember landing currency is necessary before they carry passengers, and a current Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) or other instrument currency may be appropriate depending on the type of flight.

Competency: You may feel comfortable loaning your airplane without flying with the pilot, if he/she has a lot of time in type. If your friend has little or no time in type but is experienced with similar airplanes, you may breathe easily simply by taking a short flight to observe his/her technique, especially if yours is a relatively simple and benign airplane (like a Cessna 172 or a Piper Cherokee). If your airplane is more complex or trickier to handle (e.g., a Mooney, Bonanza, Grumman Tiger, or any pressurized or multiengine airplane), you might insist the prospective pilot get some dual instruction in type before you send them off on their own. Be sure to demonstrate a thorough preflight inspection, pointing out those type-specific ‘gotchas‘ as well as anything experience has shown needs a close look before flight.

Compliance: This should be a person who you can trust to adhere to the mandates of the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH). Even similar airplanes may require decidedly different procedures. Encourage the pilot to purchase a copy of the POH for your airplane, or let the pilot borrow yours for review. Quiz your friend on operating techniques, emergency procedures and checklists before you hand over the keys to airplane — remind them this is for their own protection as well as yours.

Show him/her the documents in the airplane (airworthiness certificate, registration, weight and balance, etc.) in case he/she needs to prove airplane legality while away on a trip.

2. Review the airplane logbooks (which don’t necessarily need to be kept in a U.S.-registered airplane), showing the dates for all required inspections and checks. You have a responsibility to provide the information he/she as pilot-in-command needs to be assured the airplane is airworthy.

Note: Make sure the pilot has 24-hour contact numbers for you (and perhaps a trusted mechanic) in case there’s an accident, or need for routine maintenance while away — and insist that no work be done on your airplane without prior approval from you (or that trusted mechanic).

Just so everyone’s on the same page, talk to the prospective borrower and make sure he/she will use the airplane only for purposes you approve. Aside from strict adherence to the POH, your borrower must be capable or remaining fully compliant with any restrictions you might choose to apply

3. Legal use of the aircraft — your friend can’t charge for transportation, instruction or services using your airplane, unless it’s maintained to the appropriate commercial standards (e.g., 100-hour inspections for commercial use) and the pilot has the proper authorization (an ‘air agency certificate’ and FAA checkride for for-hire transportation, etc.). Most personal airplanes are approved only for personal and business use.

Important: Make sure the pilot doesn’t intend to use your airplane for illegal purposes. Eventually, the police (and the Drug Enforcement Agency) will knock on your door, and likely seize your airplane, if your airplane is used in a crime … even by somebody else. If there was ever a time when it was especially important for pilots of light aircraft to behave responsibly, it’s now.

Lastly, make sure the pilot will not violate the terms of your aircraft insurance policy.

4. More paperwork: Get copies of the pilot’s logbook entries, pilot’s certificates, and medical certificate to keep on file — most policies make it your responsibility to prove a non-owner pilot meets experience and currency requirements in the case of an insurance claim.


The OPW: Compare the pilot’s logged time to the policy’s Open Pilot Warranty (OPW), found in the Approved Pilots section of your insurance contract. If the pilot meets or exceeds the OPW, your policy is in force when he/she flies your plane. If not, you’ll need to add the pilot to the policy by name, which usually takes a couple days and often adds (sometimes significantly) to your insurance premiums.

Inside Information: Many policies are very picky — for example, you usually can’t count Arrow time toward a Cherokee or Cherokee time toward an Arrow when it comes to pilot experience.

Important: If it’s not exactly make and model specific, talk to your insurance agent and get answers in writing before you turn loose of the airplane. Remember, it’s your responsibility to make sure the pilot has the time and currency he/she says he/she has.

Don’ts: The borrowing pilot needs to use your airplane only as you and your insurance policy intend — this usually prohibits any commercial use like aerial photography, giving flight instruction to third parties, or for-hire sightseeing hops. If you have questions, call your insurance agent.

You can’t receive compensation beyond the direct operating costs (fuel, oil, etc.) under most aircraft insurance policies. Have them fill up the tanks when they’re done, but don’t ask for anything more.

Done correctly, this review with a prospective airplane borrower is a fun experience for you both — he/she gets a good introduction to your airplane (not to mention solo use of it later), and quite likely you’ll learn or re-learn something in the process. A trusted friend and a good airplane should make for a great time!

BOTTOM LINE: Loaning out your airplane isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you’re just a generous, great guy or gal, you might consider letting someone else fly your airplane. Like they said about the old nuclear agreements between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, though — trust, but verify. Make sure the pilot is qualified, current, and legal, to protect them as well as you and your airplane.

Editor’s Note: If you’re on the fence about this idea it may be best to err on the side of caution. Remember, if anything goes wrong, the friendship may be only the smallest casualty. For more on this, see ‘Loaning Out Your Aircraft‘ part 1 and 2.