So you’ve become a pilot; you have the experience, the hours, and are ready to take on the skies in full force. However, you are operating a vehicle that is several tons heavier than you are, with a small but very real risk of injury or death. Like anyone who drives a vehicle, you are going to want to look for some kind of life insurance that protects you in the event of an accident. However, looking for the right kind of pilot insurance that suits your needs is difficult at best, as it’s not as widely advertised as car or even boating insurance. Below are some aviation insurance options available to pilots of all experience levels, which makes for a great launching point if you’re in the market for aviation insurance.
Kinds of Life Insurance for Pilots
Looking for life insurance starts with what kind of pilot you are. Are you a commercial pilot, agricultural pilot, a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), or are you a student, just getting on your feet? Any pilot insurance agency will look at what kind of pilot you are or are going to be in order to offer you the best coverage for your profession. Because each type of pilot differs in time spent in the air and type of aircraft flown, coverage prices vary greatly from one insurance plan to the next.
Life insurance also differs between types of pilots, whether you’re a student pilot or a professional with a few years under their belt. These plans cover different aspects of flying as well. For example, flying a commercial airline would require insurance that covers passenger damages and other liabilities, while a student’s insurance plan might just cover the basics, such as airplane damage and damage to third-party structures. Like with auto insurance, the rates differ based on how long you’ve been flying, as well as what kind of airplane you plan on flying, and whether or not you’ve been in any aircraft-related accidents in the past.
Commercial Pilot’s Insurance
Commercial pilots are pilots who are responsible for not only the aircraft they are flying, but also the people within the craft. They have to adhere to a tight schedule, and ensure that the airplane is suitable for flying. If anything goes wrong with the airplane, the pilot may be held responsible. This is why it’s important to find a pilot insurance company that will cover anything that can go wrong, so you aren’t held financially responsible.
Possible areas of coverage for a commercial pilot:
- Third party damages: This can cover anything from bystanders to buildings, as well as non-typical landing areas (such as roads, golf courses, or even bodies of water). Damages that occur to anything that isn’t you or your owned aircraft may be covered under this header.
- Passenger liability: This specifically covers the well-being of your passengers. Should any of them get injured while you are flying the plane, insurance may cover a certain amount of damages up to a particular amount.
- The Open Pilot Clause or Warranty: This clause is similar to a part-time or occasional driver clause in automobile insurance. It states that a pilot with minimum requirements set out in the insurance policy are eligible for piloting a plane owned by the insured owner part-time.
Flight Instructor Insurance
Flight instructor insurance, or CFI insurance, is targeted specifically towards those individuals who have earned their instructor’s certification. Many pilot insurance agents will ask if you are actively teaching or not, as the rates for both active and inactive instructors vary. CFI insurance offers many of the same operating benefits as other pilot’s life insurance, but with some key differences.
CFI insurance covers the additional risk of having a new or inexperienced pilot in the aircraft with you, and can potentially mitigate some of the costs attributed to accidents on the ground, in the air, or with your student or passengers. Some insurance agencies also extend coverage in the event of legal action, and can help mitigate costs in the event that an instructional malpractice is found as a result of your instruction on the ground, in the air, or as a result of a failed pre-flight check. This coverage differs from policy to policy, so it’s a good idea to read the fine print so you know exactly what you’re getting.
Student Pilot Insurance
Student pilots life insurance is significantly lower due to the fact that a student pilot isn’t going to be flying the aircraft as often. They are accompanied by an experienced and trained CFI who overlooks everything that happens in the aircraft, making the margin for error considerably smaller. Student’s life insurance rates reflect the nature of the flight the student is partaking in; that is to say, a student’s flight patterns are safe and controlled, and thus are not at a high risk for injury or damage.
Aircraft Renter’s Insurance
Similar to student pilots insurance, though with some key differences. As an aircraft renter, you could be responsible for any damages and costs that the owner’s policy does not cover, which adds up fast if you happen to clip a wing or a building while landing or taking off. This cost could be tens of thousands of dollars, but with aircraft renter’s insurance, you could mitigate this cost to 0. It is a good idea to invest in the best coverage you can feasibly afford, as the coverage renter’s insurance offers is invaluable and could save you hundreds of thousands in the long run.
What to look out for when buying aviation insurance
The best thing you can do for yourself when purchasing pilot life insurance is finding a reputable pilot’s life insurance company. This, of course, goes without saying, but finding an aviation insurance company that both offers the lowest rates while also giving you the best coverage is surprisingly difficult.
Some places to begin looking for pilot’s insurance:
- AOPA.com: Offers comprehensive pilot insurance for any kind of pilot, from commercial pilot to students, and even drone pilots insurance.
- JRC Insurance Group: Not only has a wealth of information regarding life insurance for pilots, but also offers low rates for commercial and private flyers.
- Trusted Choice: Another popular choice with benefits and various types of coverage that ranges from life insurance to insuring your airplane as a whole.
Ensure that you read every instruction carefully. Many insurance agencies will use tricky wording to get you to agree to a lower coverage threshold, leading you to believe you’re getting a good deal, when in reality you’re not getting the coverage you require. Not every pilot life insurance company is like this, but a few seedy agencies can really pull the wool over your eyes. This is why it’s important to find both an insurance company and an agent you can trust.
Buying the right insurance for your needs doesn't have to be difficult, but it helps to know ahead of time what you’re getting into. With the right aviation insurance agent, you can fly with peace of mind knowing that you and your passengers are covered completely. Even if you get sued, many insurance companies cover for legal damages with the right plan. Before purchasing aviation insurance, make sure that you know what kind of insurance you need, whether it’s commercial or private pilot’s insurance, student’s insurance or renter’s insurance. Be ready to answer questions not related to flying, such as your smoking habits ,age, and extra-curricular activities (Sky-diving, for example, could count against your insurance policy, and in extreme cases, could cause companies to turn you down!). However, if you have a good agent, buying the right pilot life insurance is a breeze.