On August 24, 2009, the Canadian pilot of a twin engine Piper
Aztec flew from North Carolina to Southern Ontario. To clear
customs, the pilot made a stop in Brantford, Ontario. After
the Canadian Border Services Agents did not arrive, the pilot
decided to fly the short remaining leg to his farm.
The pilot started the left engine, but had difficulty starting
the right. He shut down the aircraft and attempted to find
the problem. Eventually he determined that the right engine
was not going to start. He considered his options and decided
to attempt a take-off with only one engine.
The pilot started his take-off roll. After the wheels of
the aircraft lost contact with the ground, the asymmetrical thrust
created by the left engine caused the aircraft to yaw to the right
toward a cornfield and trees adjacent to the airport.
Unfortunately, the left wing hit a tree and the plane cartwheeled
into the corn field. Remarkably, the pilot escaped uninjured,
though the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
The pilot was charged under Section 7.7 of the Aeronautics
Act for "operating an aircraft in such a reckless or
negligent manner that endangered or likely endangered the life or
property of any person".
The pilot made an insurance claim for the loss of the aircraft,
but the insurer denied coverage on the basis that the damage was
caused not by an "accident" but through a conscious,
reckless decision that took the risk outside of the insurance
policy. The pilot commenced an action against the insurer
arguing that they improperly denied coverage. The court
considered whether the damage occurred as a result of an
"accident" or as a result of "calculated, reckless
The purpose of insurance is to cover a "fortuitous
event" or "accident" and not events that are caused
by one's own intentional actions. For example, a home
owner is not entitled to collect on a fire insurance policy if they
set the fire themselves. Based on the pilot's actions of
willfully attempting a single-engine take-off, it was the
insurer's position that the damage was not the result of an
The pilot argued that nothing in the aircraft's
"Pilot's Operating Handbook" prohibited a
single-engine take-off. However, he admitted in
cross-examination that because the right engine was not operating,
he was unable to perform certain pre-take-off checks and run-up
tests of the right engine. In addition, he agreed that the
emergency procedures in the Pilot's Operating Handbook required
that if an engine failure occurs during the take-off run, the pilot
was required to stop the aircraft.
The court found that the evidence of recklessness was
the pre-take-off check list requires that both engines be
the emergency procedures are that if an engine failure occurs
during the take-off run, the aircraft should be stopped on the
the pilot testified that he could have safely stopped the
aircraft before lift-off; and
the pilot had never attempted a single-engine take-off
Based on the above, the court found that the denial of the
insurance coverage was warranted and that "What happened ...
was not an accident. It was negligence."
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