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Contract Pilot: Post 4 in a Series: "Risk" Thumbnail

Contract Pilot: Post 4 in a Series: "Risk"

Contract Pilot checklist:

  1.  Decide to go freelance...............................Confirmed
  2.  Draft a Business Plan..................................Initiated
  3.  Construct your business model.................Model built
  4.  Risk management......................................."Wait, you mean insurance, right?!?!"...well, sort of.

Running a successful business, also, is "terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect".  Mistakes made by either ignoring, or failing to manage risk can prove fatal to your career as a contract pilot.


From day one of flight lessons, the idea of safety is drilled into the student's psyche.  Every category, from General Aviation to the airlines harp on safe practices and learning from the mistakes of others (because you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself!).  In aviation, there is an organized mechanism for identifying, and managing risk, which can serve us well in the business community:1

While this is not a safety management lesson, the process provides a framework for a discussion on how to deal with risk.


It is impossible to operate a business, or an airplane risk free.  From a planning stand-point there are four primary risk management techniques 2:

  1. Avoidance: "makes the risk irrelevant"
  2. Reduction (mitigate): "reduce the probability or magnitude of a loss"
  3. Sharing (transfer): "shifting some or all of a particular risk to a third party"..........(ughhh.....insurance)
  4. Retention (accept/budget): "make adequate provisions to finance or reserve against exposure".......(self-insure)

Application for the Contract Pilot

Here are some examples on possible risks involved in freelance professional flying and possible ways to manage them.  The list is neither exhaustive, nor all-inclusive, because there are as many unimaginable hazards as there are things that have actually happened.....(think Farmer's insurance commercial..."we've seen a thing or two").

    • Employability: (i.e. maintaining your medical and FAA certificates)
      • Hazard:  You fail your flight physical.
      • Management:
        • Avoidance- Find a different line of work.
        • Reduction- Eat healthy, exercise.
        • Sharing- Have a working relationship with AME; have gym membership/meal plans coordinated with potential employers.
        • Retention- Don't take any of the above steps (or others) and hope that this isn't the last six months of your career.
    • Bending an airplane:
      • Hazard: Through either negligence or circumstance, you are at the controls when the airplane runs into something and it breaks.
      • Management:
        • Avoidance- Find a different line of work.
        • Reduction- Stay proficient (not just current in the type and model of airplane flown; do thorough airfield and route study during flight planning.
        • Sharing- Practice good CRM, thorough flight planning, manage expectations with crew, employer, passengers and other pilots.  And yes, have adequate liability and hull insurance to be able to bounce back from the incident!
        • Retention- Kick the tires, light the fires, and hope for the best.

    Fly safe, manage risk, and enjoy one of the best jobs in the world!

Don't be George!3:

Works Cited

1. Federal Aviation Administration. "PHAK Chapter 2." 24 August 2016. Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. Document. 23 June 2020. <https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/handbooks_manuals/aviation/phak/media/04_phak_ch2.pdf>.

2. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. CFP Board Financial Planning Competency Handbook. Ed. EdD Charles R. Chaffin. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2013. Book.

3. cjaafonso. George Costanza on Risk Management (Seinfeld S08E06). 4 September 2015. 23 June 2020.

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