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Ask Jim -Your Aviation Insurance Questions AnsweredAsk Jim -Your Aviation Insurance Questions Answered

January 2016January 2016

Disclaimer: The following material is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For questions concerning your specific circumstances, consult a local attorney.Jim

JANE:  I have non owned aircraft insurance by AOPA. If I borrow an airplane without a lease agreement or any other paperwork (by verbal agreement only) and accidentally damage that airplane, does the insurance cover the airplane damage?

JIM:  Jane – thank you for your question. In fact, our non-owned product (also known as renters insurance), is designed specifically for this type of situation. Your policy may cover damage to your borrowed aircraft, depending upon what type of coverage you’ve purchased. Our non-owned aircraft insurance has two main layers. The first is liability, a required coverage that protects from bodily injury and property damage in which you are legally liable for in the event of a claim – however this layer does exclude the aircraft. The second layer is physical damage to the non-owned aircraft.  This protection will repair the aircraft up to the amount purchased under the policy. There are a few exclusions, some of which the aircraft must be used for personal noncommercial use, be non-pressurized, have a non-turbine engine of 450 horsepower or less, etc.… I would refer you to your policy for the remaining exclusions. And finally, don’t forget you need to have the right non-owned coverage – meaning if you’ve purchased fixed-wing insurance, it would not extend to borrowing a rotor wing, multi-engine, or seaplane. 

But yes, our renters insurance does not require a lease, paperwork, or even a handshake between you and the owner. As long as the use or type of aircraft is not excluded and you’ve purchased the physical damage coverage, you should be fine. Please feel free to give us a call if you want to review your policy in detail.

DAN:  I think I'm finally about to get my medical reinstated following a heart attack, stent insertions, 6 month wait and a stress test / echo cardiogram with excellent results. The insurance on my aircraft will soon need to be renewed and I'd like to know if it is desirable or necessary to notify my broker about this series of events?  I expect to have a valid medical by the time I fill in the information for renewal.

JIM:  Dan – we’re very glad to hear you’ll soon be back in the cockpit. When you renew your insurance, we will ask your medical date and if there are any limitations or waivers other than corrective lenses. We also inquire about any special issuances (i.e. must have a stress test every year), or if the medical examiner installs limitations. If there aren’t any special issuance instructions or limitations, the details behind your medical are between you and your physician. 

On a brief side note, it’s been our experience that medicals issued with special issuances instructions or limitations generally don’t preclude someone from attaining insurance…in fact, we don’t even see difference in premiums.

SCOTT:  It occurred to me that if I ever had to land the plane from the right seat it would be good to have some experience doing that and feel comfortable. Is flying my plane from the right seat OK with my insurance company?

JIM:  Scott – a very excellent and interesting question. There are no legal rules that specify where a PIC has to sit. However, there may be limitations in your aircraft’s POH that stipulate a certain seat must be used. Barring that, in general an insurance company won’t have any problems with you flying from the right seat. Sounds easy, right? – well there’s more to the story…a lot more. While each accident is reviewed on its own merits, let’s review a few real world examples. First let’s look at a worst case scenario - a double fatality. The insurance company will review items such as: 1) what are the pilot qualifications of the front seat occupants? Is the left seat occupant a pilot (or student) and the right seat a CFI – well, this could be construed as instruction and we now may have a problem, or 2) control considerations – i.e. is the only fuel shutoff/selector on the left side of the aircraft, if so, are we sure the right seat was actually PIC? On the other hand, if no one else is in the aircraft and it’s just you in the right seat, there’s no question who was PIC.

Think of it this way: questions about who was PIC can lead to questions regarding coverage – make certain it’s always clear, both inside and outside of the cockpit, who is PIC.

That’s the insurance side, but on the pilot side: in many aircraft, switching seats means swapping flying and throttle hands and instruments may read different since you are now at a different angle. Certain maneuvers will “feel different,” particularly stalls and steep turns. If you only want to do a few patterns, I would consider having a qualified CFI sit left seat while you get your right seat experience.

RICH: I have recently soloed and plan to practice take offs and landings when I am able to make time, (shooting for minimum once a week). Should I purchase liability/collision insurance? I own my own construction business and it is paying for my “education”.

JIM:  Rich – congratulations on soloing – that’s a memory that you will cherish forever! Without some more information, I’m going to assume you are renting an aircraft. Think of it this way, if something happens, who is going to be held responsible? Who will be deemed responsible for property damage, medical payments, bodily injury (liability coverage) or damage to the aircraft (hull coverage)? So yes, I would highly recommend you consider obtaining insurance – in this case, renters insurance. Since you asked me, I’ll promote our product http://insurance.aopa.org/Aviation/renters-insurance , but do consider insurance…in my opinion, there’s no sense in risking all the assets you’ve worked all your life to accumulate when a reasonably priced insurance product is available. Take a look at the coverages and premiums – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the rates.

Jim is always ready to assist and answer your questions about aviation insurance. Email  your question, and it may just be highlighted in an upcoming Ask Jim Edition and you will receive a complimentary hat.

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