Sarah Nilsson JD, PhD, MAS
Sarah NilssonJD, PhD, MAS


AVEMCO Insurance  

- renter's insurance

- owner's insurance

- CFI non-owned insurance

- flying clubs

- corporate aircraft

AOPA Insurance Services  

- renter's insurance

- owner's insurance

- CFI non-owned insurance

- flying clubs

- corporate aircraft

AOPA Insurance Article.pdf
Adobe Acrobat document [2.1 MB]

Adequate insurance is key

1. determine needs and order correct coverage

2. analyze policy - includes features you ordered - adequately covers needs - no unanticipated pitfalls

3. recognize when changing circumstances make insurance changes advisable



Aviation insurance sold by:

- Agents: represent one or more insurance companies - sales on commission

- Brokers: not bound contractually to a specific company - free to represent buyer in shopping around - also paid on commission

- Insurance Companies directly: eg Avemco - sell directly by phone or internet


Insuring and Underwriting the Risk

Insurance Companies: company carries the entire risk (responsibility to pay for insured losses)

Underwriters: underwriting spreads risk over several insurance companies - done through a clearinghouse eg The Underwriters at Lloyds (Lloyds of London) - clearinghouse affords participating companies' representatives the opportunity to "subscribe"  to cover a portion of risk - when all total 100% then clearinghouse quotes entire price to buyer 

Aviation Managers: within insurance companies - review applications from potential customers



your duty to report to insurance company upon accident occurring

insurance adjuster: will investigate accident and make settlement offer - represents insurance company


Insurance Principles

1. Spreading the Risk

reinsurance: either done on a pro-rata basis (with a result similar to the sharing of risks underwritten through a clearinghouse) or on excess basis

2. Minimizing the Risk

How likely this operator is to have an accident

Safety Management System (SMS) - immediate favorable effect on their aircraft insurance rates

Insurers: insurance companies expect

Insureds: persons and businesses

to demonstrate an attitude of  "protecting the policy" taking care to avoid accidents


Aviation Insurance Coverages

- Aircraft insurance: includes liability AND hull coverages

Liability Coverage: covers liability for injuries to others - passengers, persons, property on ground

Deductible: amount you will pay out of your own pocket in the event of an accident for which you are filing a claim


Types of policy limits:

1. single limit ("smooth"): a single limit policy will pay up to the limit for total injuries of the total number of passengers and persons on the ground injured as well as property damage on the ground. Typically more expensive

2. per person limit: a per person limit policy has a total limit for damages and then has a sublimit for each person injured in the accident, whether they were passengers or just persons on the ground

3. per passenger limit: like the per person limit but specifically for injured passengers

4. Medical payments coverage: for passengers includes ambulance, surgical, dental, professional nursing, etc. and covers injuries to anyone entering/leaving the aircraft. Its purpose is to pay for immediate medical treatment so most policies have a time limit.


Hull coverage: covers damage to or destruction of the insured aircraft resulting from an accident - DOES NOT cover engines in an engine failure however! (unless engine failure led to accident) - may be purchased to cover:

1. all risks

2. all risks while not in flight OR

3. all risks while not in motion

For helicopters may be purchased to cover also:

1. all risks while rotors are in motion OR

2. all risks while rotors are not in motion


Total loss: when it is more economical for the insurance company to pay the entire value of the hull insurance and then sell the wreckage for salvage than to pay the cost to repair the aircraft 

The proper insured value to carry is the amount of money it would take to purchase another aircraft exactly like yours (with all the same bells n whistles!). If you over-insure, the insurance company is forced into giving more consideration to repairing the aircraft, even when there is major damage - leaving you to deal with significant damage history and no compensation for loss of value when the aircraft is repaired and returned to service. If you under-insure, you obviously will not be compensated for the amount needed to replace your aircraft with one of a similar quality.



- stated value policy - most common - insurance policy specifies the exact dollar amount the insurance company will pay to the aircraft owner in the event of a total loss

- current market value policy - rare possibly extinct -  permits the adjuster to take into account the current blue-book value of the aircraft at the time of the accident along with factors peculiar to the aircraft


Financed aircraft: loss payee is named as well - to whom the insurance company makes the check payable  in the event of a hull damage claim


Salvage: aircraft remains that insurance company owns after paying previous owner for total loss


Purpose of use: factor when purchasing insurance:

1. Pleasure and business: includes pleasure flying and personal flying incidental to or in direct connection with the insured's business (excluding any operation for which a charge is made)

2. Industrial aid: includes pleasure and business AND transportation of business executives, employees, guests, and customers (excluding any operation for which a charge is made) - most corporate aircraft

3. Commercial except instruction or rental: includes pleasure and business and industrial aid AND transportation of passengers and cargo for hire (excluding commercial flight instruction or rental of aircraft to other pilots) - charters, cargo or mail hauling and/or scheduled passenger carrying

4. Limited commercial: OPPOSITE of #3. above - includes pleasure and business and industrial aid AND commercial flight instruction and aircraft rental to other pilots (excluding carrying passengers or cargo for hire) - freelance flight instructor

5. Commercial (full commercial): includes pleasure and business and industrial aid and carrying passengers and cargo for hire, commercial flight instruction and rental to other pilots - full service FBO

6. Special Uses: higher level or risk - agricultural aviation operations, operations requiring a FAR waiver, aerial firefighting, helicopter external load operations, helicopter flight training, banner and glider towing, fish spotting, power line or pipeline patrol, and emergency medical service helicopter operations

7. Flying Clubs


Pilot Qualifications (open pilot warranty): factor when purchasing insurance:


Endorsements and Exclusionsfactor when purchasing insurance:


Lienholder's Interest Endorsement (breach of warranty endorsement) assures lienholder that even if the circumstances of an accident are such that the insurance company would not have to pay the owner-operator, the insurance company will pay the lienholder the balance due on the loan - CATCH! usually provide that if the insurance company has to pay a lienholder under this endorsement for a total loss, the insurance company gets all of the lienholder's rights in return - insurer pays off bank then takes bank's position on promissory note and you continue to make payments to insurance company rather than the bank 

lienholder: lender named loss payee

Waiver of Subrogation Endorsement: subrogation is right of insurance company that has paid a claim to sue anyone other than the insured who contributed to cause of accident


War Risk Exclusion and Insurance: Lloyd's form AVN 48B


FAR Violation Exclusion Clause: if the operation was in violation of an FAR, it is excluded from coverage by the insurance policy


Ordering the policy:

Authority to bind coverage

Binder: locking in the insurance coverage

Reviewing the policy: read carefully and thoroughly

Keeping your coverage current:

Airworthiness: think about special flight permit (ferry permit)

Geographic limits: think about operating outside the US

Warning of Policy Expiration: think about adding warning to calendar


- Airport liability insurance: includes premises liability AND hangarkeeper's liability

Premises Liability: covers injury to nonemployees occurring at your place of business

Hangarkeeper's Liability: covers your liability for damage to other people's aircraft while they are in your care, custody, or control

In-flight hangarkeeper's liability: covers any damage done while performing a maintenance flight check on a customer's aircraft


- Product liability

For mechanics and repair stations, shops or  modification centers: products and completed operations coverage


- Aircraft Title Insurance

To protect against defects in title not revealed in title search - appropriate for corporate aircraft


- Prepaid legal services


- Loss of license insurance

Offered by ALPA and AOPA (here)


- Excess liability

Umbrella policy



Insured duty: 

1. pay premiums when due

2. be truthful in all disclosures

3. cooperate with the insurance company during investigation of filed claim

Insurer duty (indemnify):

1. defend claim in court (if plaintiff cannot prove you negligent or strictly liable)

2. pay any resulting judgment up to policy limit

3. settle the claim out of court for any amount up to policy limit (usually without consent of insured)

LLOYDs Policy.doc
Microsoft Word document [1.5 MB]




- Is your liability limit smooth or with a sublimit?

- If with a sublimit, is it per person or per passenger?

- Does your hull coverage include "in motion" and "not in motion" incidents?

- Are medical payments provided under the policy?

- If yes, do they include the crew?

- What is the scope of the covered territory and does it meet your needs?

- What is the approved use under the policy and does it cover your flight operations?


Policy Details

- What deductible would apply?

- Who can fly the aircraft?

- Does it include FAA-approved repair stations?

- Can I charge others for the use of my aircraft?

- Is there coverage for me if I rent or borrow an aircraft owned by others?

- Does the policy provide coverage for FAA Ferry or Special Permit flights?

- What is the airworthiness requirement?

- Are any premiums partially or fully earned at time of coverage inception?

- What are my obligations under the terms of the policy?

- What is the Notice of Cancellation clause?

- Do I need to request coverage for additional parties (lienholder, landlord etc.)? 



Janet Bressler

Testing the Limits


Don't be afraid to ask


Brenda Jennings

Lienholder coverage: When it's not your fault


AC 61-142 - Sharing Aircraft Operating Expenses in Accordance with 14 CFR § 61.113 (c)


Contact Me

Sarah Nilsson, J.D., Ph.D., MAS


602 561 8665


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Legal Disclaimer

The information on this website is for EDUCATIONAL purposes only and DOES NOT constitute legal advice. 

While the author of this website is an attorney, she is not YOUR attorney, nor are you her client, until you enter into a written agreement with Nilsson Law, PLLC to provide legal services.

In no event shall Sarah Nilsson be liable for any special, indirect, or consequential damages relating to this material, for any use of this website, or for any other hyperlinked website.



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