Answers for Pilots

Don't fly without it

July 1, 1999

Why renter's insurance should be a preflight requirement

It's that time of year when vacation spots such as the beach and the mountains sing their siren song. If you're scheduling a flying vacation this year and plan to rent an airplane from either your local FBO or an airport at your destination, or to borrow a friend's aircraft, remember the one thing that most pilots forget to pack — renter's insurance.

"Most pilots who rent believe that they are covered under the FBO's insurance," states Kathy Minner, an AOPA aviation technical specialist on the AOPA Pilot Information Center. "Simply put, they're usually not." And this applies across the board to veteran pilots as well as new and student pilots.

According to Minner, in most cases the FBO's insurance is protection for the FBO, not for the renter pilot. In other words, if you have an accident, the FBO has insurance to cover its airplane, not you. Your individual medical insurance may cover you for any bodily harm that you may suffer. But if you have substantially damaged the rented airplane, the FBO's insurance company has a right to subrogate or claim against a third party that caused the damage — that's you, the renter pilot.

"When you rent — or even borrow — an aircraft, you may not be insured against claims for injuries to passengers or others arising from your operation of the aircraft, and chances are that you are not insured against claims for damage to the aircraft itself," says John S. Yodice, legal counsel for AOPA. "What aggravates the problem is that many renter pilots are not aware of this situation, and they don't become aware of it until there is a claim. At that point the problem becomes a personal crisis."

Another good reason for having nonowner's insurance would be for additional liability coverage if the liability on your friend's policy is not adequate or if he or she doesn't carry any liability insurance at all. Remember to add aircraft damage liability to your nonowner's policy because you may be held liable for the costs of repairs if you damage your friend's aircraft.

Paul Smith, an AOPA aviation technical specialist and a CFI, counsels callers to AOPA's Pilot Information Center and his students to obtain renter's insurance. "Unfortunately, when you are not used to flying a certain airplane, something such as a hard landing can result in anything from a bruised ego to substantial damage in a heartbeat," said Smith. "If you aren't prepared to buy the owner another airplane, it's best to protect yourself."

Smith's student Virginia Yatsko, AOPA 1358644, a 33-year-old student pilot from Frederick, Maryland, has been working on her private pilot certificate for a little more than a year. Before training with Smith, Yatsko had soloed but was not covered under renter's insurance. "When I started flying with Paul, he indicated to me that insurance was my responsibility," said Yatsko. "My father is a private pilot, and he had also told me that I needed renter's insurance."

A call to the AOPA Pilot Information Center will give you the answers that you need to know for renting during your vacation flying. An aviation technical specialist will answer your questions concerning nonowner insurance and send to you a copy of AOPA's Pilots' Guide to Insurance: Renters, Aircraft Hull, and Liability, which outlines the need for nonowner insurance, answers the most frequently asked questions on insurance, and provides a checklist for insurance shopping.

Renters' insurance is offered by a small number of insurance companies. AOPA is the leader in nonowner insurance, having created the AOPA Personal Nonowned Aircraft Insurance Program in 1993. This program provides comprehensive liability coverage that protects you against common bodily injury and property damage arising from your use of borrowed or rented aircraft and pays your legal defense costs in the event that you are sued. Full family coverage without sublimits and AOPA's per passenger limit options offer superior coverage. Information on AOPA aircraft insurance for renters may be obtained by calling 800/622-AOPA or is available on the Web site ( www.aopaia.com).

As an AOPA member, you have access to the best source anywhere for information and answers for pilots. The AOPA Pilot Information Center gives you direct access to specialists in every area of aviation. The center, 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672), is available to members from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Information is also available on the Web (www.aopa.org) .