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Let the (Aircraft) Borrower BewareBorrower Beware

You might feel incredibly lucky to have a pilot buddy who is willing to loan his aircraft to you for a flight – that he trusts you enough with his “baby” to let you spend a few hours flying. I personally was the beneficiary of the kindness of a great friend who let me borrow his Mooney as I was completing my commercial rating. As wonderful as it is to broaden ones experience through flying borrowed aircraft, what many may not realize is that the risk is more on your part than on the aircraft owner.

Here’s why: If you have an accident while flying your friend’s airplane, that owner’s insurance will likely cover any damage. In short, his insurance will make him and his airplane whole again. But what about you? By flying your friend’s airplane, you are opening yourself up to the responsibility for the total value of the airplane and any liability which arises from damage you do to property or other people. I just can’t say this strongly (or often enough): Unless you are named on your friend’s policy, You personally are not covered or in any way protected by the owner’s insurance. You are on your own.

The owner is protected by a provision in his insurance coverage called an Open Pilot Warranty. That means the owner’s insurance company allows other, non-named pilots to fly the airplane and the owner’s policy remain intact – for the owner, not the borrower. Sometimes known in the hangar as the “other pilot clause,” depending on the aircraft, it can read as broadly as “anyone with a private pilot certificate or higher” or can be very restrictive in the example of “must have a private, multi-engine instrument rating, with a total of 1,500 hours, 500 multi-engine hours, 50 in the make/model, and have had an IPC in the last 12 months.” So as an owner, please do read the Open Pilot Warranty carefully before allowing anyone other than a named pilot fly your airplane.

Again, by meeting the Open Pilot Warranty, the owner ensures his insurance remains intact and the airplane is protected, but what protection do you have as the borrower? The answer is simple: You have none. You may be thinking, “But if the owner’s insurance fixes the airplane, how could I be financially responsible?” One-word answer: subrogation. That’s a technical term that means the insurance company pays the owner who is now made whole, but the process doesn’t stop there. The insurance company will then want to be made whole and can go after you, the borrower of the airplane, for reimbursement. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

A simple incident could turn into thousands of dollars. Let’s say you go off the taxiway while taxiing and ding the propeller. No one is hurt, but that simple fix is costly. The airplane is easily fixed, the insurance company pays the owner for the repair, but then they want to be repaid by you.

Now if we add to that scenario and say someone is injured, again the owners policy will defend the owner, but will do nothing to defend the borrow.

The solution for this very real scenario is simple: renter insurance. Renters insurance covers both borrowers and renters and for as little at $81 a year, you’ll have liability coverage. For $175 a year, you can get comprehensive coverage that includes bodily injury to passengers, 3rd party property damage, and damage to the borrowed or rented aircraft. When faced with a $50,000 (or more) repair bill a $175 policy, the choice is simple. Buy renter insurance. Buy renter insurance. Buy renter insurance. That’s exactly what I did – knowing I had my own policy to protect my interests.

It couldn’t be easier. You can apply online, pay online, and receive proof of coverage all in under 15 minutes. Once again, I’ll say:  For the price of one hour of flight time, you get amazing protection – and, of course, peace of mind that your finances are safe.

Whether you own or rent, AOPA has the right insurance coverage to fit your budget and needs. AOPA Insurance Agency offers knowledgeable agents who can talk your language and understand your unique flying and insurance requirements. For more information, or to purchase renter insurance please visit aopainsurance.org/rent or call AOPA Insurance Agency at 800/622-AOPA (2672).

Jim Pinegar

Jim Pinegar

Vice President & Director of Operations of AOPA Insurance Services

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