May 31, 2014 by Craig Harris
“Find a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life,” according to Confucius. For Paul Greening, an adjuster and aircraft enthusiast, he has been able to combine both interests into a lifelong career in aviation claims. It started with obtaining a pilot’s license in 1968.
Not that the work is easy or without its challenges. “I run my office out of Palliser Park, Sask. on Lake Diefenbaker because I learned a long time ago you don’t have to be in any specific place to do aviation claims,” Greening explains. “Accidents don’t happen in your own back yard; you have to travel to the site.”
In fact, he keeps two backpacks stocked and ready (one for summer, one for winter) for the emergency phone call to handle a claim. “When an aircraft loss happens, they don’t count on you being there tomorrow,” he says. “It is today, or as quickly as possible after the incident occurs. That is the way the aviation world works. It doesn’t matter what you are doing at the time; if a loss happens, you are gone.”
The dedication and commitment required to be a specialist aviation loss adjuster reflects the nature of the profession, says Greening. Like many Prairie residents, he is a plain talking, hardy, do-it-yourselfer who has spent years honing his skills.
“The challenging part of this job is you are not in the position of getting guidance from underwriters,” he observes. “You make your own decisions because often you are not in communication with anyone. You go in there, see what has to be done and get it done.”
Paul Greening has been “getting it done” for over 35 years and under the banner of Greening Aviation Claims since 2002. He has specialized in aviation claims for Aviation Underwriters and the Canadian Aerial Applicators (hull and drift liability) in all three Prairie provinces.
But his career also arcs back several decades and includes a diverse set of experiences and unique opportunities in claims handling. While Greening first became an independent loss adjuster in 1966 (he started out in claims with Saskatchewan Government Insurance in May, 1959), it wasn’t until 1975 that he got the nod from Hank Eisler, a well-known aviation adjuster in Saskatoon, to start taking on aircraft-related losses. He became a partner in the firm H.J. Eisler Co. Ltd. (operating as Stinson Eisler Adjustment Bureau).
Greening recalls that building up the expertise in this specialized field took some time. “I tutored under Hank for several years,” he notes. “In the aviation world in those days, Lloyd’s of London was the primary insurer. They let me do some of the claims, but Hank had to sign the reports that went to London. After five years, Lloyd’s finally gave the green light for me to sign off on my own reports.”
His adjusting experience also extends to other interesting areas, such as professional liability and environmental claims, particularly related to the uranium industry. Greening handled a lot of the claims during the Saskatchewan uranium mining surge of the 1970s.
“That was a very interesting opportunity,” he recalls. “When mines develop from exploration to production, losses occur left and right. There was a real variety of environmental issues, which included claims like release of contaminated water and uranium spills to internal hydrogen fire.”
Mining and aviation were closely related activities during the heyday of the uranium boom in Saskatchewan.
“The earlier years of the aviation industry involved smaller aircraft and exploration in the north when mining started to develop,” explains Greening, who has handled claims from the Arctic to the southern deserts of the U.S. “Aviation became a key factor in the exploration, surveys and development of mines. Later on, that evolved into transportation of personnel and larger passenger aircraft. The transportation world changed from cargo and survey to passengers and supplies.”
Professional liability became Greening’s focus in 1983, when he was appointed as the investigating adjuster on behalf of the Law Society of Saskatchewan. For 18 years, he was directly involved in the development of claims procedures for the Law Society, a role that extended to the Law Society of the (then) Northwest Territories.
“I spent many years handling E&O losses for the law society here,” Greening says. “They finally went self-insured; I was directly involved with their program, in terms of setting up loss prevention measures. Actually I worked myself out of a job,” he laughs.
In 1987, Greening and two partners purchased H.J. Eisler Co. Ltd., allowing him to specialize in aviation and professional liability claims. In 1995, a branch office of Eisler Adjusters was established in Regina and, in 2002, Greening Aviation Claims was incorporated with Paul becoming the sole owner. The general insurance side of the business was sold to (then) Underwriters Adjustment Bureau, with Paul specializing in aviation and professional liability claims.
Since that time, he has handled hundreds of aviation claims. Greening notes aircraft losses are challenging on many levels due to complexity, tragedy (loss of human life) and recovery issues.
“You have to explain the claims procedure to the insured,” he says. “In many cases, it may be their first loss. You have to sort of hold their hands, discuss it with them and say,’ here is how I think we can get this resolved for you.’ Keep the insured involved in the claims procedure with straight talk and honesty.
Some notable recent losses include the mid-air collision near St. Brieux, northeast of Saskatoon, in May 2012 that resulted in five fatalities. Another involved the crash of a survey aircraft due to engine failure on a street in Saskatoon in April 2011 that left one fatality.
“You have to take time and understand what they are going through. Some of the cases we deal with are quite tragic. So you have to reach out to the people who suffered the loss, before you even think about doing the claim,” Greening says.
Fortunately, only a relatively small minority of aviation claims entail loss of life. For Greening, maintaining the expertise to handle these often complex claims is part of the role of a niche lines adjuster.
“There are two aspects to the continuing education required,” he says. “The first is the insurance policy and underwriter’s requirements. Aviation underwriters will send you a copy of the policy, so that you can digest everything pertaining to that specific loss. The (policies) are very unique; you receive custom policies drafted by aviation brokers and agents and then you really have to start digging.”
A second, equally important, facet of this specialty is knowledge of the “product” itself – the aircraft and its parts and characteristics.
“You need a good understanding of aircraft structure, piston and turbine engines, fabric-covered aircraft to high-end aircraft,” Greening notes. “You don’t have to be an engineer, but you have to know the basics and when you need more specialized knowledge, consultation with aircraft engineers.”
There are plentiful rules and regulations involved in aviation, including arrangements to deal with various authorities such as the Transportation Safety Board and Transport Canada. Aircraft and pilot documentation, flight records, weather, flight and aircraft limitations are other factors that must be carefully documented.
“One of the challenges of this job is being able to explain unique loss situations to underwriters,” Greening says. “Keeping underwriters well informed is key.”
While aviation claims handling is clearly a specialized line of business, Greening argues that it is a field ripe with opportunity for adjusters with the right mindset -and commitment.
“I think there is very much a market for independent adjusters specializing in niche lines,” he says. “The key is, number one, finding someone who is interested in that particular line of business and, number two, ensuring they are dedicated to it.”
He adds that “it won’t happen immediately; it takes
a few years to build the expertise. Look at me, it took five years before the underwriters at Lloyd’s let me sign off on my own reports.”
For Greening, in the end the investment in knowledge he has put into aviation claims has paid off in a rewarding career full of challenge, opportunity and interest. The work is worth the effort. It’s a passion – and a labour of love.