Camping and aviation insurance

What could possibly beat the sound of a Stearman warming up for a dawn flight as your alarm clock?

As thousands of Oshkosh, Wis.-bound pilots have discovered, there is no better place to make good friends than a campground surrounded by airplanes, pilots, and tents. Every year pilots and their families hopscotch from one airport to another enjoying America from a vantage point unimaginable in most of the world. So what does that have to do with insurance? Well, insurance folks think everything could have an insurance consequence, and camping under a wing is no different. Fortunately, you really don’t need to do much; the insurance companies have already done most of the work for you. To start, unless your policy restricts you to hard-surface airports, you are already covered for landing at that sod airstrip. Check your policy, but you will probably find that the place you land must just be designated and regularly used as a landing facility. While your friend’s fresh-cut hayfield may be out, most companies don’t restrict you to asphalt runways.

So what about your actual campsite? You are probably covered under two policies. One, if your aircraft insurance policy includes an extended coverage provision or endorsement, your liability protection likely extends to include the “use of the premises in or upon which your aircraft is parked." Two, if you have a homeowner’s policy, the definition of “insured location” probably covers a premises “…not owned by an insured but where an insured is temporarily residing.” Finally, while there is some limited coverage under an aircraft insurance policy for the theft or destruction of a passenger’s property (usually $1,000), in most cases your homeowner policy would again be the policy to respond to such losses.

So, just what are the “rules” of airport camping?

Rule #1: Always call ahead, and get permission to camp. Your policy does not cover trespassing, so whether it is a public- or private-use field, and even if the airport directory says camping is approved, you need to make sure camping is approved.

Rule #2: Bring your own tiedowns. As an aircraft owner, you are legally required to act in a reasonable and responsible manner, so tie the plane down securely.

Rule #3: Keep your campground clean, picked up and safe… and make sure it looks better when you leave than when you arrived. Offer to help with chores or do a ramp foreign object debris (FOD)-sweep as a way of giving back, and a thank-you note when you get back home is always a good idea.

AOPA encourages local communities to be involved in the revitalization of their local airports, and to make them welcoming and inviting places for young and old. Many of these “user friendly” airports already have campsites available, and more are expected to become available in the years ahead. If you are interested in joining the effort to build aircraft viewing and picnic areas, playgrounds, and campsites at your airport, contact your local fixed base operator, airport commission, or flying clubs. If you should have questions concerning insurance, call AOPA Insurance Services at 800/622-2672 or go online.