Reviewing Aviation Insurance Options For Pilots

This is the second part of a two-part article exploring the available aircraft and aviation insurance options available to pilots.  Click here to read part 1.

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Approved Use Insurance

Approved-Use insurance covers reimbursement by non-owners who use an aircraft. Approved-Use insurance is similar to the approved-pilot clause since no specific premium is assigned to the approved-use clause, but as anticipated, commercial operations are confronted with higher premium rates than non-commercial operations.

Approved-Use clauses are included in all insurance policies, but because it is considered to be a “sleeper,” most aircraft owners erroneously assume that they can do anything they want with their aircraft.

Caveat: Just as with the approved-pilot clause, the approved-use endorsement varies greatly among insurers where each insurer maintains several versions it can use with varying degrees of [broad] coverage. Since the insurance broker negotiates the wording, it is wise to retain an experienced aviation insurance broker for representation in an effort to avoid being placed at a disadvantage when negotiating terms with the insurer.

In the event that subsidiary companies, business associates, friends, etc. have access/use to an aircraft, it is necessary to be sure that the broker is aware of exactly what compensation is changing hands, such as money, a case of wine, a week at a time-share, and so forth since it all converts back into a dollar amount. If an aircraft is involved in an accident, and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration determines that due to the reimbursement you received, the flight was actually commercial in nature and should have been operated under Part 135 charter regulations instead of Part 91, the insurance claim could be denied.

Additional Aviation Insurance Coverages and Clauses

There are several other types of aviation insurance coverages and clauses that are also available:

Broad Form Names Insured Clause – This extends the insurance coverage to a subsidiary or affiliated companies of the named insured and other companies the named insured controls or actively manages.

Contractual Liability Coverage – To some extent, this insures against liability that is assumed under contract but this coverage requires vigilance so that any or all contracts or agreements related to the aircraft are submitted to the insurance broker. These documents include hanger agreements, dry-lease, time-share and interchange agreements, purchase/lease agreements, and leased/loaner engine agreements.

Non-Owned Aircraft Liability – This extends coverage under the policy for the use of non-owned aircraft which includes chartered and rental aircraft; however, it is wise to review any known or anticipated use with the aviation insurance broker.

Diminution of Value – This reimburses the aircraft owner for depreciated value caused by damage history that is due to a physical-damage claim; however it is rarely purchased due to the cost and the complexity of the formula that is employed to determine coverage.

Garagekeepers Liability – This covers the insured for his or her negligence to a non-owned auto in his or her care, custody or control, such as cars in hangars.

Helicopter Insurance – This consists of coverage that can protect the insured if:

  1. He or she owns a helicopter and rents it out to other helicopter pilots
  2. He or she is a helicopter pilot and flies for fun or recreation
  3. He or she is a helicopter pilot and flies rescue missions and/or medical evacuations
  4. He or she is a helicopter pilot and works in the firefighting division of the U.S. Forest Service

The aviation insurance coverage required will depend upon the risks involved in the particular use of the helicopter, where it is flown, and other factors, such as requiring personal helicopter insurance when flying for fun in contrast to needing business insurance when flying as part of a commercial operation. Because the policy is tailored to address the insured’s use and risk factors, it is imperative to work with a knowledgeable agent who can conduct an accurate needs assessment to formulate the best aviation insurance coverage.

Helicopter insurance covers a variety of risks including the following:

  1. Liability coverage addresses the insured’s legal responsibility in the event that he or she causes another person’s personal injury or property damage while flying or landing the helicopter.
  2. Passenger liability is required if the pilot carries passengers in the helicopter; however sometimes general liability or public liability will be packaged with passenger liability which offers an overall coverage limit that applies to public liability claims, passenger liability claims, or a combination of both.
  3. Hull insurance or property damage insurance for airplanes and helicopters can insure the helicopter when it is on the ground or when it is in flight. However, it is necessary to verify that the coverage offers protection from a range of risks, such as theft, vandalism, severe weather, and/or damage or a total loss due to an accident.

Private and business helicopter insurance coverages differ due to the wide variety of jobs and contracts that pilots perform ranging from flying for fun to medical evacuations, firefighting, traffic patrol, news reporting, business transportation, charter rides, and search and rescue. Although liability and property damage coverage is required for any of these uses, specialized endorsements or additional policies may also be necessary especially when flying commercially. Some additional coverages that may be required include:

  • BOP or business owner’s policy insures other business property and equipment in addition to one or more helicopters in the fleet as well as provide loss of income protection in the event of a covered business interruption.
  • Equipment coverage protects the use of specialty equipment or medical supplies depending on the nature of the work performed. This additional coverage often in the form of a rider covers the insured’s investment in the specialized equipment and supplies.
  • Business interruption coverage provides coverage in the event of a covered loss that interrupts business operations by bringing in money to pay bills and employees’ wages.
  • Workers compensation is required when employees are present to cover them in case of work-related injuries or illness. WC also provides a percentage of pay to employees if they are unable to return to work but laws vary, so access state regulations to ensure that the required coverage is in force.
  • Medevac insurance, medical equipment insurance, and other specialty coverages can mitigate the additional risks that can be encountered by medical helicopters, air ambulances, and Medevacs which often perform risky flights to transport critically injured patients or organ donors to medical centers. Increased risky conditions, such as night flights, inclement weather, mountainous terrain, and elevated stress levels can serve to increase the likelihood of a mishap.
  • Cargo insurance or inland marine coverage insures the cargo, mail, parcels, and/or equipment that is transported on a helicopter while it is in the care, custody or control of the insured. Note that each of these policies has certain exclusions so it is important to review the policy to determine if there are any gaps in the coverage which may require the purchase of additional coverage as needed.
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Aircraft Insurance: What Type Should Pilots Carry?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Your aircraft and flying skills represent wonderful business and personal capabilities, but they may also constitute one of the largest exposures to catastrophes that you can imagine. So, the following summary details a list of the most critical aircraft insurance coverage types and [potential] losses:

Aircraft Hull Insurance

Aircraft hull insurance covers physical damage to the aircraft as a result of an accident where the insurer has the option to pay for the repairs or to declare it a total loss, which requires that the insured pay the insured value that is stated on the policy.

Aircraft hull insurance premiums are calculated on $100 of the insured value of the aircraft where the higher the insured value, the lower the rate per $100 drops. For example, the hull premium for a midsized jet that is not used for commercial purposes and has an insured value of $10 million might cost $13,000.00 or 13 cents per $100 of insured value. In comparison, an older version of the same jet that is insured for $5 million might have a premium cost of $10,500.00 or 21 cents per $100 of insured value.
Aircraft hull insurance is required by the bank if you have a lien on the aircraft; however, you would also need it unless you can afford to withstand an uninsured loss.

Caveat: Since aircraft hull insurance is predicated upon the aircraft’s agreed-to or stated value rather than its cash value, there is a potential for over-insuring or under-insuring it which can be problematic. For example, when the hanger collapsed at Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. in 2010, many of the damaged aircraft were significantly over-insured. This resulted in a situation where the insurers were forced to repair aircraft that the owners would have rather declared as total losses. Therefore, the accurate insured value to carry on the aircraft is its current market value or lien amount whichever is greater; coverage for war-risk perils should also be included since it offers broad additional coverage for a small additional premium. Annual reviews of aircraft insurance coverage should be conducted and adjusted at the time of renewal if necessary.

Aircraft Liability Insurance

Aircraft liability insurance covers liability for bodily injury or property damage that arises from an accident, and the insurance is written on a single-limit-per-occurrence basis, such as $100 million per occurrence. This type of aircraft insurance includes [legal] defense costs over and above the stated liability cap.

Aircraft liability insurance premiums are typically a flat amount that is based on factors, such as the selected liability limit, the pilot(s) who are flying the aircraft and/or the owner/pilot, and the approved use (Part 91 versus Part 135). Using the midsized jet mentioned previously as an example, with an insured valued of $10 million, the approximate annual premiums for ascending liability might be $8,500.00 for $100 million of coverage, $17,000.00 for $200 million of coverage and $25,000.00 for $300 million of coverage. These quotes will vary based on the age of the aircraft and the extent to which the underwriter opts to place a greater premium on the hull insurance and less of a premium on the liability component of the coverage. There could also be rate surcharges of up to 25 percent depending upon how much or often the aircraft is used for charter flights.

Aircraft liability insurance is needed by everyone since it protects against the largest catastrophic loss exposure, such as accidents resulting in injury or property damage due to which you are most likely to be sued even if the suit is groundless.

Caveat: Buy as high a limit of coverage as you can afford since it is likely that you will not find out whether you have enough coverage until after you have experienced a loss. The liability claims generated by a crash while carrying one or more high-net-worth individuals or when flying over a populated area could easily exceed $100 million. So for that reason, carrying $200 million to $500 million liability limits can certainly provide additional peace of mind. As with hull insurance, carrying coverage for war-risk perils is recommended since it offers broader additional protection for a small additional premium.

Approved Pilot Clause

Approved pilot clause covers who is authorized under a policy to act as pilot-in-command or second-in-command on an aircraft.

There is no specific premium associated with this approved-pilot clause, but the overall policy premium directly correlates with the pilots’ experience level and their training protocol. Obviously, the better qualified the pilots and the more stringent their recurrent training and safety initiatives, the lower the premiums will be.

Approved pilot clause is included in all policies; however, a disproportionate number of claim denials are directly related to the fact that the pilots flying aircraft did not meet the exact criteria of their pilot clause. For example, a Falcon 900 that aborted a takeoff and exited the runway causing extensive damage to the aircraft was denied the claim by the insurer because the copilot that day, although well-qualified, had not completed the insurance-related training for the make and model of the aircraft.

Caveat: If only one section of the aircraft insurance policy is renewed each year, this should be the section and it should be negotiated by an aviation insurance broker as the broadest approved-pilot clause possible. The clause varies greatly among insurers so if the insured is not represented by an experienced broker, he or she will be at a distinct disadvantage. Be sure to provide the flight department and/or any other pertinent parties with a copy of this section combined with any evidence of required recurrent training when the insurance policy is received annually. Also, note that virtually without exception, the primary pilots of all turbine/jet aircraft must complete annual recurrent training at an insurer-approved facility whether or not such training is stipulated in the policy. In addition, this training is critical when statistics purport that 85% of aircraft accidents are a result of pilot error.

We will continue to explore additional aircraft insurance options in an upcoming Part 2 on this topic.

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