Damage to Flight School Airplane

Hi everyone - my son is currently taking private lessons to obtain his PPL while also finishing his degree so he can attend ATP. Just this week, he was flying with his CFI and had a hard landing. He followed all the instructions from his instructor but a downwind pushed the plane down onto the runway. He was not straight so it caused a busted windshield and other damage. The instructor (who owns the school) is now going after my 19 year old for $18K in damages. He is claiming lost wages (it is his only plane) plus damages.

He apparently has no insurance and claims my son should have had renters insurance. There were no contracts, nothing signed and no mention of him needing insurance. And apparently, according to him, the insurance company would go after him anyway.

My first question is…has anyone ever dealt with something like this? Secondly, are students responsible for damages occurred while learning to fly under the supervision and instruction of a CFI? That seems crazy to me. NOTE: There were no contracts that were presented or signed and no mention that we needed insurance before flying, if that matters. Should he be looking for more contracts and disclosures when picking a school?

Any suggestions would be helpful.

I would suggest consulting an aviation attorney as we are not able to dispense legal advice on this forum.

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Understood. Has anyone ever had something like this happen to them? Is this common and is it common that students could be held liable? That is my question - not looking for advice.

I am NOT a moderator and not a pilot (yet). I work in medical at the moment where anything that happens while you are an unlicensed student (short of criminal behavior) is not something a student could ever be successfully prosecuted for. I would avoid getting into details or discussion with the owner, but as a parent, if I were you I’d ask him point-blank if he intends to proceed with charging his former student for the damages that happened while he (the instructor) was in the plane and in charge, and if he says yes, I’d urge you to retain the services of an attorney right away. Good Luck! Hopefully your son can move on from this and find a better instructor!

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Thank you!

He should be looking for a legitimate flight school that has insurance. Another reason we recommend people do all their training with ATP. As Chris said we cannot give legal advice but the CFI is the Pilot in command and he’s responsible for what took place.


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“Why did you, the pilot in command of the aircraft, allow this to happen?” is the first question I would ask, and I imagine that’s the only question any legal authority would ask. This is a bluff, in my opinion.