Resources for AOPA Members

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is a not-for-profit aviation organization that was founded in 1939. AOPA has more than 414,000 members worldwide, making it the largest aviation organization in the world. With this many members comes a significant demand for legal advice in the aviation community. The Coye Law Firm has a special interest in this area of the law because Mr. Coye is himself a licensed private pilot. The Coye Law Firm's personal and legal experience in aviation can help you sort through issues of aircraft transactions, ownership, and insurance.

The Coye Law Firm can defend you on many levels if you experience a personal injury or insurance dispute resulting from flying or owning a plane. Call our offices today.

Purchasing an Aircraft

If you are in the market to buy an aircraft, there are several important things to know before making a commitment. An inspection of the aircraft should be completed so that any problems are noted and resolutions discussed with the seller. For example, airplane maintenance is measured in time between overhaul, or TBO, and is typically 2000 hours. If the engine of the plane you are considering is within a hundred or so hours of reaching this peak, you might consider talking the seller down to a lower price to make up for this potentially costly overhaul. Discussing these issues can resolve disputes before they occur. Paying for an aircraft can be a difficult thing, but financing and co-ownership are two ways to alleviate the financial burden. Financing a plane or other aircraft can be done traditionally through a bank. The value of an aircraft can be contested, however, so it might be best to contact a source of financing that is familiar with aviation. Co-ownership can be a good way to split not only the purchase price of an aircraft, but also the cost of ownership and maintenance. The legal arrangement is not much different from owning other property with another person. Tenancy in common or joint tenancy are two ways to split responsibility for an aircraft. Choosing whether to be joint tenants or tenants in common is important because it can affect what happens to your stake in the aircraft upon death. If you are a tenant in common with someone, your portion of the aircraft is passed along according to your will. If you are joint tenants, your part of the aircraft goes to the other owners. As with any purchase that requires a large sum of money, it is best to have the relationship explicitly stated at the beginning in order to avoid any disputes. The Coye Law Firm can help draft the terms of the arrangement and documents needed to protect your share of the investment. Liens are applied to property when some obligation must be fulfilled by the owner. A mortgage is a good example of a lien. Most people think of homes or other pieces of real estate when they hear the term, but they can also be applied to titles on aircrafts. A quick search of the aircraft's title history can prevent a legal dispute if a person or institution says they are legally entitled to part of your new purchase. Title insurance also protects you from any ownership disputes. If there are any gaps in the title's history, then someone might come forward and say they own the aircraft. Sorting these issues out can be a long and difficult legal battle that is best avoided through title insurance. 

Selling an Aircraft

It is important to know all of the steps in selling an aircraft and transferring ownership to another person. This small detail could create a real problem for the seller and purchaser of the aircraft if the transaction's validity is called into question. Hiring an attorney can save you the problems that arise when dealing with paperwork and ownership issues. The Coye Law Firm can write the contract for you and complete the necessary filing.

Renting an Aircraft

Even if you don't own your own aircraft, it is a good idea to have renter's insurance. If you are flying an aircraft and an accident occurs, you can be sued for injuries or property damage. Protecting yourself with adequate renter's insurance and hiring an experienced attorney can build a strong case if legal action is brought against you. If you have been involved in an accident and are being accused of not following safety procedures and precautions, call to discuss your case with the Coye Law Firm. We have the necessary experience to investigate ways to resolve your aviation case.

Where can I fly?

It is crucial to educate yourself on airports and restricted air spaces BEFORE you fly. Those who fly in restricted air space can be federally prosecuted even if they had no malicious intention or awareness of the restrictions. 

Aircraft Insurance 
for Aircrafts:

It is important to secure adequate insurance coverage before you fly. Experience with aviation is invaluable in an insurance agent that you may communicate with and comparing policies can be your best defense in the event of a problem or liability. The best advice when considering insurance is to "read your policy." Awareness is the best defense in case of an accident. Knowing what to do following an accident and when to do it can save you a lawsuit. Consult an attorney at the Coye Law Firm to better understand your policy and what laws protect you as a pilot.

for Passengers:

The AOPA offers insurance plans in the event of aviation accidents. Some health insurance plans don't protect against aircraft injuries that occur when the policyholder is the pilot, so it is important to review your policy or secure extra coverage before flying. Cross liabilities can lurk in fine print as well. For example, some policies may state that spouses or other family members don't qualify as "passengers" and therefore cannot make a claim if an accident happens. Reading the policy--maybe three or four times--can protect you and the ones you love from a financial burden if there is an accident. 

Enforcement Guidelines

After an event, a pilot may be held liable for their actions. Below is a brief discussion of what happens in emergencies and non-emergencies. 

Non-emergencies

Non-emergenicy actions violate FAA policy but don't pose any threat to the pilot, their passengers, or the aircraft. Forging a certificate needed to fly the plane would be an example of a non-emergency action. When these events happen, an inspector investigates the claim and one of four courses of action are taken. The pilot may receive a warning letter, be required to retake examinations needed for a license, be faced with a civil penalty, or the case may be dropped if the investigator decides this way. If the pilot is required to pay a fine and they feel that it is unfair, they may begin the legal process of appealing it. A flowchart of the process is available here. Your case may involve large sums of money or other penalties, so consulting a lawyer and having them defend you in the court system is necessary.

Emergencies

In emergency events, the National Transportation Safety Board is involved early on to protect people involved in the accident. After an emergency, a pilot's license is immediately suspended or revoked. The pilot may then petition for a review to find that the event wasn't actually an emergency or they can appeal to the NTSB for their license to be reinstated. In either scenario, judges and courts are involved to decide your fate as a pilot. Some cases can go as high as the U.S. Court of Appeals if either the pilot or the FAA feel the ruling is unfair. A flowchart of the process is available here. The Coye Law Firm's experience and knowledge can help to reinstate a license or reputation. Call the Coye Law Firm today for legal matters regarding aviation. An aviation lawyer with a personal interest in and experience with aviation can help to investigate potential liability, resolve ownership disputes, and speed up the purchase process. Aviation, no matter how thrilling and rewarding, can be a past time that requires legal advice and protections.