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Helicopter Pilot Insurance Coverage Trends
By Rick Lindsey


Helicopter accidents can result in property damage, death or catastrophic injuries.  When things go wrong, there is usually plenty of blame to go around.  Read the headlines today and you’ll see that millions of dollars have been awarded in liability lawsuits. 

Helicopter pilots are trained, highly skilled, cautious and careful professionals who understand the importance of being proactive by double-checking all systems, safety checks, and other factors when piloting a helicopter.  A pilot must be prepared to be thrust into a dangerous or unexpected situation at any moment and have the skills to react quickly.

Similarly, the same mindset should apply to your liability insurance protection because, by comparison, your protection is critical to your financial well-being and career.  A comprehensive plan for property damage liability, legal liability for non-owned aircraft, and bodily injury to passengers, non-passengers and the helicopter is an important part of covering your liability exposures.

More and more training facilities and flight schools are opening up around the country.  Safety, advanced training, and sophisticated training techniques are being introduced every day.  The opportunities in the aviation industry are expanding and flight schools are experiencing tremendous growth.  There is a demand for pilots in the private and public sector for security details, EMS, law enforcement, firefighting, and other related work. 

Instructors, mechanics, and trainers are exposed to risks and can benefit from having an individual liability policy in place as they are in high-risk areas.  Pilots flying non-owned helicopters (those who rent or borrow a helicopter) examiners, and CFIs might think they are protected because the owner has coverage, but this does not protect the pilot.  Also, fractional owners should have a customized plan as well.

Helicopter owner’s insurance normally provides a legal defense for the pilot, but only to the point where there was no conflict of interest and only up to the limits of insurance coverage.  There are limits, exclusions, and gaps that can leave you unprotected. 

In addition, student renters may believe they are covered under the training facility’s plan.  This is not the case as coverage is limited and will not protect individual exposure.  Despite what some might think, flying safe and having an instructor in the cockpit does not protect a student pilot from liabilities.  There are gaps and exclusions in coverage that place an individual pilot in jeopardy of being named in a lawsuit, and liable.


Here’s a list of some non-owned aircraft exposures that could be addressed by having personal, non-owned aircraft liability insurance:
1.    A person or organization that charters an aircraft for recreation or business.
2.    A pilot who rents an aircraft from the aircraft owner.
3.    A student pilot taking instruction in someone else's aircraft.
4.    A CFI providing instruction in a customer's aircraft.
5.    A mechanic who is test flying a customer's aircraft.
6.    A pilot ferrying or delivering an aircraft for someone else.
7.    An independent professional contract pilot operating an owner's aircraft.
So as the industry evolves and becomes ever more sophisticated and complex, it makes sense to consider another level of insurance protection.  Individual liability coverage will help protect you and your career. 

Rick Lindsey is Chairman, CEO and President of XINSURANCE.com, which is powered by Evolution Insurance Brokers, LLC.  He is both an insurance professional with 30 years of experience and a licensed helicopter pilot with a unique perspective of the exposures, gaps, and liability risks in the aviation industry.

Posted in: Safety, Regulatory

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