Following last week's surprise withdrawal of aircraft insurer Avemco from large portions of the homebuilt and experimental aircraft market, the AOPA Insurance Agency has identified a number of companies willing to write such insurance.
"Members contacted AOPA about the difficulty in obtaining insurance for homebuilt aircraft," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "By working with the many insurance underwriters affiliated with the AOPA Insurance Agency, we've been able to find solutions for many homebuilt owners. Sadly, we can't help everybody. There are some risks the insurance companies are unwilling to cover."
In response to the problem, the AOPA Insurance Agency has established a special "Experimental Desk," staffed by experienced agent Silka Bulleigh. "Ms. Bulleigh has more than 25 years' experience in aviation insurance and knows how to best assist our members," Boyer said. (Homebuilt aircraft owners can contact the Experimental Desk at 800/622-2672, extension 127.) Boyer explained that because the AOPA Insurance Agency is an agency, its agents are able to search among multiple insurance underwriters to find the best coverage and rates for an aircraft owner.
Homebuilt aircraft owners were shocked last week when Avemco (which is a direct insurer, not an insurance agency) suddenly issued a moratorium on policies for higher performance homebuilt and experimental aircraft. The company reportedly will no longer write new policies for aircraft with retractable gear, more than 200 horsepower, more than $200,000 in value, or capable of cruising faster than 180 knots.
However, the AOPA Insurance Agency can obtain insurance coverage for many of the aircraft in this category, including various Lancairs and the Van's Aircraft RV8 series. For some of the higher performance aircraft, the insurance underwriter may require certain levels of pilot experience in the aircraft.
"The experience requirement is a difficult hurdle," said Greg Sterling, executive vice president and general manager of the AOPA Insurance Agency. "But the insurance industry's experience is that some higher performance experimental aircraft require a higher level of pilot skill."
But Sterling advised experimental aircraft owners not to panic. Insurance is still available for many aircraft, although owners may not be able to obtain all of the coverage they might want, and premiums may be higher than for similarly valued production aircraft.
"Contact an aviation insurance agent whose job is to find the right insurance for you," said Sterling. "Avemco isn't the only company in the business. But to access policies offered by other companies, you need to work with an agent."
Give your agent complete information. The more the agent knows about your flying experience and aircraft, the better the chance the agent can obtain the coverage you want.
Be flexible. Coverages, deductibles, and underwriting requirements can differ widely between insurance companies. Your agent can help you find the best one to suit your needs, Sterling said.
Finally, be realistic. "Regardless of how we might feel as pilots, the truth is that in the minds of the insurance companies, experimental aircraft are viewed as higher risk than production aircraft," said Sterling. "You're not always going to get the same coverage for a homebuilt as you could for a factory-built aircraft."
The AOPA Insurance Agency is the nation's largest general aviation insurance agency and is the only aircraft insurance agency backed by the 60-plus-year expertise of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. AOPA represents more than 380,000 pilots, some two thirds of all pilots in the United States.
For more information, contact the AOPA Insurance Agency at 800/622-AOPA (800/622-2672) or visit the Web site.