If we could dial back to what was on pilots’ minds before the health crisis hit, one major topic we’d likely see is insurance—specifically, the issues and difficulties general aviation pilots were experiencing: spiking premiums, increased restrictions, and the mounting hoops just to get covered.
And while social distancing, cockpit disinfecting, and safer-at-home orders have been the topic of recent discussions, concerns about insurance have not abated with the coronavirus pandemic. These insurance concerns formed the platform of AOPA President Mark Baker’s virtual address to the Aviation Insurance Association (AIA) on March 20. Baker provided a sharp point of view from AOPA and our members toward aviation insurance and the hardships pilots have endured.
Baker reminded AIA members that the GA accident rate is down more than 50 percent since 1994. That said, he cited specific examples of AOPA members who, despite a commitment to safety and currency, have seen their premiums spike.
“One our members, ‘Joe,’ has flown his PC–12 more than 300 hours in the past year alone and even completed over 100 hours of instruction. He has a spotless record in the air and on the road, but just saw a premium increase of 38 percent—and only if he flies with a safety pilot. He’s simply asking ‘why?’” Baker said.
Noting that “Joe” was 67 years old, Baker went on to cite another major insurance-related issue that many members are bringing to AOPA’s attention: age.
“Our members don’t understand that when they turn 70, they are asked to pay 40 percent more than when they were 69-and-a-half. What’s so different about them than just a few months ago?” Baker asked. “Our members are more than their age, a sheet of paper, and where they happen to live. We just want them to be recognized as such.”
Because Baker sees blue skies ahead for GA, he believes this is the right time for pilots and the insurance industry to come together with a common focus on ensuring good health for aviation.
“I think we’re going to see a boon in general aviation as more Americans embrace the freedom and flexibility of flying,” said Baker. “We want to make sure to create an easy path into aviation for these new and returning pilots. Worries about insurance shouldn’t get in their way and stop them in their tracks. Having more pilots in the air helps all of us.”
Baker went on to outline several AOPA initiatives for the AIA membership that will help pilots return to the skies safely.
“Our Air Safety Institute has produced guides and webinars for pilots getting back to the cockpit,” he said. “We know that both many aircraft and pilots have been on the ground for some time. As our main focus is safety, these tools ensure that pilots, and their planes, stay safe and sharp.
“We’re also helping flight schools embrace a broader view of training with adaptive learning tools, to allow for better feedback, consistency, and training completion,” Baker added. “It’s important that we increase the percentage of students who finish their flight training, and we believe these methods will greatly help.”
Baker stressed that there is nothing more important to both organizations than a healthy pilot population.
“How do we best work together for our members and for the flying community?” he asked. “It’s in the best interest of both of our associations to reduce the number of claims and do everything to keep pilots safe and in the air.”
In closing his remarks, Baker shared a short personal story:
“I personally have flown with a CFI who is 85, and he is awesome!” explained Baker. “Now I certainly know that not all 85-year-old pilots are the same, but how do we get them to be recognized for their skills and ability, and not just their age?”