‘Gustnado’ Wipes Out Flight School Fleet


A GoFundMe account has been set up to help a family-owned flight school whose fleet of training aircraft was all but wiped out in a freak weather event on Thursday. Eight aircraft belonging to ATD Flight Systems were destroyed and three were damaged after what the National Weather Service says may have been a “gustnado” that blew through Charles B. Wheeler Airport in Kansas City, Missouri, about 6 a.m. A gustnado is a whirlwind that forms in thunderstorm outflows. Only two of the company’s aircraft were airworthy after the storm.

The planes are normally inside a hangar owned by a local FBO but had been moved outside to make way for an annual charity event planned for Friday night. The Hays family has operated the flight school since 1996, and KMBC is reporting there is concern that insurance won’t cover the full replacement of the fleet because of skyrocketing used aircraft prices. “While the future of the flight school remains unknown, we are humbled by the support of our incredible staff and the words of encouragement from our community,” the company said in a statement. In the meantime, the two remaining aircraft will be used to get students nearing their checkrides their last few hours.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Insurance won’t cover the costs because of the skyrocketing used aircraft prices? What about the contract the flight school signed with the insurance company? I would have to go with that. If an aircraft is insured for X amount, and it’s a total loss, the insurance company has to pay up. I haven’t seen a contract stating fluctuations in value. I’m not saying that there not out there. I just haven’t seen one. But if indeed that’s the case, the insurance company better start looking for their wallets.

  2. I suspect the insurance company will pay what they owe. The situation may be that the insurance policy provides for X dollars for each airplane while the cost today for a replacement airplane may be X plus Y.

    • Yes, would have been clearer if it said “insurance HULL LIMITS won’t cover the full replacement COST of the fleet because of skyrocketing use aircraft price”. Hindsight says the prudent approach would be for an owner to adjust hull coverage limits to match used marketplace pricing, at least at each annual renewal, but I guess not everybody does that.

    • The airport where I learned to fly was hit by a tornado years ago, wiping out all of the planes in the fleet except for those few that just happened to be in the maintenance hangar. All of the planes destroyed were tied down and they still ended up a pile of aluminum. The flight school had insurance and most of the planes were replaced. Tie downs are no guarantee against a tornado type wind. Hopefully this flight school can recover.

    • There are no tie downs on the south end of MKC. Signature emptied the hanger and left the aircraft overnight on the ramp chocked and unattended.

  3. Finding suitable replacements on a realistic timeline is the first hurdle…hopefully they will not lose students, instructors, mechanics while rebuilding their fleet.

  4. Aircraft insurance is purchased on an Agreed Value amount, not replacement value or actual cash value. If the Agreed Value purchased by the flight school is less than the cost of purchasing replacement aircraft then they may indeed be in trouble. This should serve as a heads-up to other flight schools to check on the replacement costs of their aircraft and increase the amount of insurance if needed before they suffer a similar fate. Insurance brokers should be doing the same for their clients before letting them under-insure their aircraft.

  5. If you are insuring a fleet, to minimize your premium you might feel comfortable cutting the agreed hull values close to the bone or even more based on the assumption any claim you filed would be only a single aircraft. A bad guess on only a single hull wouldn’t be a disaster.

  6. I haven’t seen anything yet on Signature’s liability. I keep waiting for word to break that they’re covering at least the gap because, well, they moved the planes out of the hangar … but nothing beyond “Signature won’t comment”. Or are these planes all usually just parked in chocks and being in the hangar the day before was just coincidence rather than SOP? Or does Signature not have any responsibility to its clients?