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Tough Insurance

By Bob Mackey, Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.

Over the years, I've seen insurance designed for just about every different combination of pilot and aircraft imaginable. I've seen a private pilot with less than 100 total flight hours insured in a Bell 412 (a $2 million, twin-engine turbine helicopter); a 98-year-old pilot insured in a Beech Bonanza; a low-time private pilot insured in a replica 1912 Bellanca Parasol, (which looked like a step ladder on it's side with a wing and an engine attached!). I've even seen airplanes insured that were intended to make their final landing without the gear attached. Just last week I arranged insurance for a very low-time private pilot in a Piper Aztec.

It's been interesting to see how insurance underwriters are able to accept certain risks. Conversely, I've also been amazed when insurance simply could not be put together at any price.

What does this all mean? Well, on one hand this means that with a little time and extra effort, a good insurance agent can arrange insurance for some pretty unusual situations. On the other hand, there certainly are limits to what can be done. The only thing I know for sure is that there are no guarantees as to what risks can and cannot be covered.

Several years ago, given the right experimental amateur-built airplane, you could arrange insurance for a student pilot. By "right experimental amateur-built airplane" I mean a simple, docile airplane with fairly straightforward flight characteristics similar to some existing standard category airplane.

That landscape has changed. Today it is nearly impossible to arrange insurance for a student pilot in an experimental amateur-built airplane. The reason I say nearly impossible is because as soon as I say it is impossible, some extenuating circumstances will come along and voila, insurance is available. If an EAA Member asked me today about insurance for a student pilot in an experimental amateur-built airplane I would say, "Probably not, however I'll check with a couple of underwriters I think might consider the risk to see what can be arranged."

Odds are that insurance isn't available. That's why I would advise any member who is planning to build an experimental amateur-built aircraft to have his/her pilot license by the time the project is finished.

Why don't underwriters like insuring student pilots in experimental amateur-built airplanes? It's mostly the flying characteristics of the airplane not being conducive to training and the concern about the experience level of the instructor in that particular experimental amateur-built airplane.

What about the new experimental light sport aircraft (ELSA) and special light sport aircraft (SLSA)? Will underwriters offer insurance for a student pilot who builds an ELSA or buys a SLSA? Some will and some will not. However, from what I've heard, insurance will be available for students in an SLSA and it's looking favorable for a student pilot in an ELSA.

The aviation insurance landscape is always changing. At Falcon Insurance Agency we see every situation imaginable and we arrange insurance sometimes when we think we can't. When this happens we all get our heads together, usually via email, and we share what happened so we all know how to approach the same situation if it comes up again. We look at the airplane, the instructor, the location, and most importantly, which insurance underwriter gave us the quotation.

Keep in mind that not every risk is insurable and before you buy or build make the call to the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, toll-free at 866/647-4EAA (4322). Find out if you will be able to get insurance. Trust me, the one thing we hate to have to do is tell someone they can't get insurance, especially after they've built or bought their airplane.

At Falcon Insurance Agency we are committed to arranging insurance for every EAA Member, and we will do whatever we can to accomplish this task. However, when it comes to arranging insurance for the some pilots in some airplanes, aviation insurance is still underwritten one risk at a time and insurance underwriters can and do sometimes say no.

The EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan is all about providing the best insurance at competitive prices with outstanding (and honest) service. Regardless of what airplane you are building or flying, call the EAA Plan today. 

EAA INSURANCE TIPS is a special EAA Member benefit. If you have an insurance related topic you’d like to see addressed or if you have any comments, please email bmackey@falconinsurance.com. If you need an insurance quotation call 866-647-4EAA (4322).

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