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Check Your Insurance Before Climbing into the Cockpit

Nearly 600,000 Americans are active certified aircraft pilots, according to Federal Aviation Administration estimates. These pilots fly everything from helicopters to commercial jets. Some own the aircraft they fly. Whether you own a plane or fly rented or borrowed aircraft, you should be aware of what your insurance can and cannot do and the insurance coverage you need.

A typical homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover the policyholder’s legal liability for bodily injury or property damage arising out of any of the following:

  • The ownership of aircraft
  • Its maintenance, occupancy, operation, use, and loading or unloading by anyone
  • Entrustment of it to anyone
  • Poor or no supervision of a person using it
  • Its use by a child or minor

Personal umbrella liability policies typically contain similar provisions. Consequently, it is essential for aircraft owners and renters to purchase aviation insurance. A relatively small number of insurance companies offer these policies, and the coverage details vary from one company to another. However, they all cover legal liability for injuries or damages. Coverage applies to the policyholder, anyone riding in or using the aircraft with the policyholder’s permission, and any other person or organization responsible for the aircraft.

Aviation policies normally contain several provisions that limit or eliminate coverage, such as:

  • No coverage for liability that the insured assumed by signing a contract.
  • No coverage for damage to property the insured leases, occupies or has control of, though some insurance companies cover damage to leased hangars.
  • No coverage for losses occurring when the aircraft’s Certificate of Airworthiness is not in effect.
  • No coverage for injury or damage that occurs while the aircraft is being used for an illegal purpose.
  • No coverage for a loss that occurs when the number of passengers exceeds the maximum stated in the policy.
  • No coverage when a pilot who does not meet certain conditions is operating the aircraft. These conditions may include having a valid pilot’s certificate, having logged a minimum number of flight hours, and having flown that make and model of aircraft a minimum number of hours.

Policies usually cover the use of substitute aircraft while the insured aircraft is out of service for maintenance or repair. Also, policies issued to an individual or couple often include coverage for the occasional use of aircraft they do not own.

Aviation insurance also covers damage to the aircraft itself. Policies typically cover damage from all causes other than:

  • Wear and tear, mechanical breakdown, and related causes
  • Damage to the tires
  • Depreciation or loss of use of the aircraft
  • Embezzlement
  • Government seizure of the aircraft
  • Change in ownership of the aircraft

Discuss how you use aircraft with an insurance agent to make certain that you have the proper coverage and amounts of insurance large enough to adequately protect you. Personal aircraft can be a great convenience for their owners. The right insurance can give you financial peace of mind when you jump in the pilot’s seat.