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COPA For Kids – Why it was created 

By Kevin Psutka

 

COPA has received some feedback from members, wondering why we stopped participating in the EAA’s Young Eagles (YE) program and created the COPA For Kids Aviation Program (CFKs).

Despite the joint statement by EAA President Tom Poberezny and myself, some believe that COPA separated from the YE program to try and compete for members with the EAA or some other ulterior motive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In this article, I will explain how we tried to remain with the YE program but, after two years of trying, we had to separate from the YE.

COPA is not trying to compete with the YE program. Instead, we are trying to replace the program with a similar one. COPA had an affiliate agreement with EAA to run YE events through our Flights.

Some members have the misconception that when COPA was participating in the YE program that COPA members were protected while flying by EAA’s top-off insurance. This was not the case. When COPA participated in the YE program, we provided liability insurance coverage to the Flights for running a YE event, as well as other events including fly-ins and Flight monthly meetings.

The Flight officers, members and volunteers (including volunteers who were not COPA members) were covered for any liability issues arising from the event, excluding aircraft accidents. We relied on the pilot's liability coverage to provide protection from liability.

As explained in the joint statement, “due to growing concerns about the legal climate in the United States, and related insurance issues, it became apparent that COPA’s continued participation in the EAA Young Eagles program could not be achieved. So, an alternative was sought to maintain the involvement of COPA members in youth flights in Canada.”

CFKs is actually enhanced in terms of insurance coverage. When we reviewed our coverage during our negotiations with EAA, we decided to expand our insurance coverage to include protection for COPA, COPA Flights and other ground volunteers in the event of an aircraft accident.

But no additional insurance is provided to the pilot of an aircraft involved in an accident. Our underwriter is not prepared to offer protection for pilots at an affordable rate for COPA on top of the required coverage aircraft owners already have for their aircraft and each passenger seat.

The EAA provides the pilot with top-up liability insurance only if he/she is an EAA member, as was the case when COPA participated in the YE program. The EAA website describes their insurance coverage for EAA Chapters and pilots. The amount of coverage is actually less than the coverage COPA is providing to COPA Flights.

I would also like to emphasize that when you carefully read the EAA document, it says that Young Eagles flying must be coordinated through a field representative or Chapter in order for the $1,000,000 liability coverage to be in effect for volunteers, just like our COPA For Kids program requirements.

People may be under the impression that they have complete insurance coverage when they fly kids on their own. This was not the case when COPA participated in the YE program and it is not the case under the COPA For Kids program. To be safe, all youth flights should be done in an organized manner, whether done under the YE or CFKs program.

It is important to note that while EAA does permit individuals to fly YE on their own, they prefer that it be done in an organized manner, with people on the ground to manage the kids. COPA discussed this with the EAA when we were negotiating. Suffice it to say that it remains to be seen how the courts will react if ever a Young Eagle is injured on a flight or on the ground when the event was not organized by an EAA Chapter or field representative.

COPA decided to take a safer approach on this one and restrict our youth flying to those organized by Flights. That way, there can be no grey area.

It is a different world than when the YE program was developed and COPA participated. EAA's review of their program after an unfortunate accident brought many issues to light, including the relationship with outside groups, of which in the end COPA was the only non-U.S., non-EAA entity to provide YE flying.

Neither EAA nor COPA could find a solution that would permit us to continue. That was unfortunate but not for lack of trying. The EAA also worked hard to find a way to make it work. In the end, cross-over liability between the two organizations proved to be an expensive issue to resolve.

COPA Flights that may be weighing their options for conducting youth flights should carefully consider the requirements for either EAA affiliation or COPA affiliation. To conduct YE flying, all pilots have to become EAA members and the event will have to be organized by either an EAA Chapter or a field representative in order to benefit from the Chapter insurance that EAA has available.

Neither COPA nor EAA condones combined YE and COPA For Kids events because of the insurance complications that this would present.

There was also some confusion about COPA’s intentions during the period last year between the termination of the YE relationship and the launching of our program.

COPA’s affiliation with the YE program ended on May 31, 2008 and we advised Flights and members not to run Young Eagles events. We were trying to protect members’ best interests by ensuring that they knew that there was never any EAA coverage for COPA members under the YE program and that until our liability insurance was amended to specifically include CFKs events, there was no insurance protection of any sort for Flights or COPA members conducting youth flights. 

Without that affiliation in place there was also no authorization from the EAA for COPA Flights to run a YE event.

Some members had the impression that we were telling COPA members that if they were also EAA members that they could not fly Young Eagles. We were in fact saying that COPA Flights could no longer run Young Eagles events and that if EAA members wanted to continue flying kids, they could only do so under the EAA umbrella until our program was launched. 

I think of the departure from YE in a positive manner. Instead of having one program to attract kids to aviation, we now have two. There were some COPA members who did not participate in YE because it was a U.S. program and they had been pressuring COPA management for years about developing a Canadian program so that they could participate. I am hoping that these complimentary programs present even more opportunities to introduce kids to aviation.

If the EAA top-up insurance is an over-riding factor for some, I encourage members to participate in Young Eagles by being a member of EAA and participating through an EAA Chapter. Of course, I would prefer that everyone remain COPA members in support of all the unique work we do in Canada for the freedom to fly. Our strength is in the number of members we maintain.