Aircraft Insurance For Student Sport Pilots
By Bob Mackey, Vice President, Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.
Since the advent of Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft, we've seen promising growth in all areas of recreational aviation. This is a very good thing; one which we all hoped would happen under these new regulations. The aviation insurance industry has had to adapt to this new community of pilots, aircraft, and commercial operations, and for the most part it has done a admirable job stepping up to make insurance available.
While most individuals flying as sport pilots have been able to secure aircraft insurance, and flight schools offer pilot training towards the sport pilot license have found they can obtain insurance coverage, we need more aviation insurance companies involved. For example, what about the student sport pilot? Can individuals who wish to take flight training towards the sport pilot license obtain non-owners (renters) insurance, or if they are purchasing an aircraft to train in, can they find aircraft insurance? In the next few paragraphs I'll provide an update as to what's available in the areas of aircraft and non-owners insurance for student sport pilots.
To start with, if someone plans to purchase an aircraft and then start their sport pilot training, they have several options between standard, primary, experimental amateur built, experimental light sport, and special light sport aircraft. Is aircraft insurance available for a student pilot in each of these categories? The answer is yes, … and no.
Right now, aviation insurance companies, at least the ones that will insure an experimental amateur-built aircraft, (generally) will not offer aircraft insurance for a student pilot in this category of aircraft. Actually, this has nothing to do with sport pilot because aviation insurance companies have always shied away from this combination. So if you are a student pilot considering building or buying an experimental amateur-built aircraft, don't do it until you've checked with the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan to make sure you are insurable.
As for the other categories of aircraft, student pilots can obtain aircraft insurance. I do have a very important recommendation though: If you plan to buy an aircraft to learn to fly in, make sure you have the complete details and qualifications of the instructor and flight school you plan to go through to work on your pilot license. I cannot stress this point enough! It is much easier to obtain aircraft insurance - and you very well may save some money - if you have all the details about your instructor when you call the EAA Plan for a quote. Without this information the insurance company must make assumptions as to the qualifications of the instructor and this point alone may cause you to get a declination…or a higher price.
What if you are planning to take your sport pilot training at a flight school or through an independent flight instructor? What are your exposures? What insurance can you obtain to protect yourself?
As a student sport pilot, also if you are a student pilot working on a Private Pilot License, you should obtain non-owners (renters) aircraft insurance. This is important because if you injure someone, damage someone's property, or damage the airplane you are training in, (even if the instructor is onboard), you may be held responsible by the owner's aircraft insurance, and/or anyone else that suffers injury or property damage. All insurance companies are becoming more and more aggressive in their efforts to recover costs for claims and being uninsured is no guarantee you will be immune to "subrogation", which is the legal term for an insurance company's efforts to recover their costs and expenses in conjunction with claims from someone else.
To protect yourself, any time your are flying an aircraft you do not own, rental or borrowed, including flight training, you should have non-owners (renters) aircraft insurance.
How much insurance coverage do you need if you are buying non-owners (renters) insurance? Well, for the liability insurance coverage I recommend a minimum of $500,000 in a combined single limit including passenger coverage at $100,000. I also recommend you purchase liability insurance for damage to the aircraft you fly. I recommend you purchase a limit of insurance that equals at least 50 percent of the value of the aircraft.
Why a minimum of 50 percent? Let's look at an example. You're using a non-owned aircraft worth $50,000 and you carry $25,000 in coverage. The aircraft is destroyed when you run out of fuel, (due to your negligence). There will most likely be some salvage value for the remainder of the aircraft. If the salvage value is $15,000 the insurance company may seek to recover their loss portion, which is $35,000. If you have at least $25,000 in insurance coverage the insurance company may accept this amount and not pursue you for the remaining $10,000. You can always buy more coverage. I'm just recommending that you purchase at least enough insurance to equal 50% of the aircraft value as a bare minimum.
So, how much is this insurance going to cost you? The liability portion for injury and property damage will cost you around $180. The insurance coverage for damage to the aircraft will cost you $300 for $25,000 in coverage. Overall you are looking at an annual insurance cost of $480. These costs are subject to change so make sure you check out the complete details on the EAA Plan. To obtain an application and review all of the options for insurance coverages and costs, go to www.eaainsurance.org.
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