The number of pilots in the United States has grown slightly over the last few years. In 2016, there were approximately 584,000 pilots; in 2018, that number reached 633,320. Today, the demand for well-trained pilots is increasing, especially at the regional airport level.
While aviation can be an exciting career path, it carries with it considerable risk, particularly for those pilots flying non-owned aircraft. Whether flying an A-Star helicopter or a Cessna 550 Citation, or training a future aviator, a pilot can be at risk in the event of an accident. It’s interesting to note that private planes have a substantially higher crash rate than that of commercial aviation. That can be attributed to pilot skill, looser regulations for private planes, and lack of safety and backup systems. Financially speaking, however, a general aviation crash or damaging an aircraft can potentially put a huge dent in a pilot’s wallet and career.
Common, costly misconceptions
A pilot takes a personal financial risk every time he or she flies a non-owned aircraft for instruction, pleasure, volunteering or contract hours. What’s more, when aviation services are provided outside of work hours, the pilot becomes subject to personal liability. The employer could actually turn around and sue the pilot personally for damages or losses that they incur as a result of incidents.
“But doesn’t the owner’s insurance cover me?” Too often, that’s a question asked by pilots after an incident. It’s a common misconception, and a costly one at that. A pilot may have traditional insurance policies in place, either from an employer or individually, yet the pilot is likely still exposed due to exclusions or gaps in these policies. Any aircraft owner could even seek reimbursement from pilots for the deductible and for increased insurance premiums, and owners and pilots are separately liable for accidents under FAA regulations. Even student renters are under the misconception that they’re covered under the training facility’s plan. Some would think that by flying safe and with an instructor that a student pilot cannot be held liable. Think again.
Unfortunately, after an incident, there’s a lot of blame to go around, and it could land on the pilot or even a student pilot. “When an accident happens, claimants are looking for multiple sources of compensation, and that includes the personal estate of the pilot involved, whether alive or dead,” says Rick J. Lindsey, president, CEO, and chairman of Prime Insurance Company, an excess and surplus lines insurance carrier that specializes in providing solutions for specialty and declined risks. Legal defense may fall short for the pilot as well. While the owner’s insurance normally provides a legal defense for the pilot, it’s only to the point where there was no conflict of interest and only up to the limits of the corporate insurance coverage.
Protecting against unpredictability
Just as preparedness is part of any pilot’s training, so it should be when it comes to a pilot’s livelihood and assets. “No pilot should ever fly without personal pilot liability insurance,” says Lindsey. “As a pilot, you get to experience a freedom unknown to most, and with such a unique lifestyle, you need unique liability coverage to protect yourself from a litigation-happy society.”
Helicopter and aviation liability insurance from a trusted insurance company such as XINSURANCE can help circumvent limits, exclusions, and gaps in the pilot or employer’s traditional insurance policy. Simply put, XINSURANCE, offered by Evolution Insurance Broker through Prime Insurance Company, provides affordable, supplemental coverage that fills the gaps and “seals the cracks” in traditional policies for small aircraft of all kinds. Coverage for startup businesses, first time insureds, non-union shops, and pilots that are approved to operate, but not covered under business liability, are also considered. Certified Flight Instructors, AMTs, owners, fractional owners, FAA Designated Pilot Examiners, and private contractors can also obtain this coverage.
XINSURANCE has a solid foundation in place, as Prime Insurance Company is a financially stable insurance company, rated “A” by A.M. Best. Prime has offices in Salt Lake City, Utah, Chicago, Illinois, Naples, Florida, and West Chester, Pennsylvania. It is an exceptionally good company — with strategic relationships with some of the world’s premier insurance organizations, including Lloyd’s of London, Berkshire Hathaway, Gen Re, and RLI.
XINSURANCE, powered by Evolution Insurance Brokers, LC offers 30-plus years of diversified underwriting experience for specialty risks in all 50 states, including helicopter and aviator liability insurance. It offers flexible underwriting, risk management expertise, and outstanding claims results for difficult risks, with consideration for good risk management practices.
You’re being sued, now what?
XINSURANCE not only covers where gaps and exclusions fall short but also provides a team of attorneys who will defend a pilot aggressively in court. The XINSURANCE team delivers coverage and also defends the pilot if the need arises. Court costs, penalties, fees, bonds, expert witnesses, appeals or any out-of-pocket expenses are covered up through policy limits.
Prepare for the unexpected
Bottom line: It behooves every pilot in a non-owned aircraft to protect his/her assets against costly or frivolous lawsuits. Before taking flight, secure helicopter or aviation liability insurance from a trusted insurance company. It’s your best backup plan for the unexpected.