Aircraft claims mount in storm's aftermath

November 8, 2012

Sandy Aircraft soaked in salt water suffered landing gear damage, at least, and many were total losses. Photo courtesy David Faile.

Wheels and brakes turned white and frozen by a salt-water soaking; metal disintegrated quickly as losses mounted in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Igor Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Bridgeport, Conn., may have seen the worst of the storm’s wrath, after a surging Long Island Sound swept over the airport. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer David Faile, who has flown from Bridgeport since 1960, said it was the worst flooding he had seen. At least a dozen aircraft had been deemed total losses by Nov. 8, a figure expected to increase as inspections continued. Faile estimated that 100 aircraft or more were damaged by the storm surge flood.

Airports and aircraft along the coast of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut sustained losses, though most escaped the scale of destruction seen in Bridgeport. More than a week after the storm, the final tally remained unclear: Claims were only beginning to come in to the 16 insurance companies that write aviation coverage.

“They still have a long list of airplanes to bring in for inspection,” Faile wrote in an email Nov. 8. “It boils down to, if there was water in the fuselage of a low wing airplane, it probably got to the wing spar and wing attach areas and that is serious.”

More than $1.5 million in losses had been processed by Nov. 7, a figure drawn from a small subset of insurers that work with AOPA Insurance Services and believed almost certain to increase, perhaps significantly. Many aircraft owners in affected areas have had other priorities, and may not have discovered storm damage yet. Claims for storm relocation coverage are often filed long after the fact.

Insurance company executives said it was still too soon to say whether the volume of storm-related claims would affect premium prices, though they noted that operational losses still comprise the largest share of total claims, and pilots can still help keep premiums low with safe flying.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore | Online Associate Editor, AOPA

AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.