Do I need renter’s insurance?

Piper CubIf you fly aircraft that you do not own, the answer is an unequivocal "YES!"

If you drive a car or own a house, you are required to carry insurance - this is for YOUR protection as much as it is for others'.  So why don't most of us even think about insurance when we fly?  Maybe it's because we don't OWN the planes we fly, more often than not.  If you own the plane, your financing will require that you carry insurance to protect THEM in case of an accident (they want to make sure that they get the money they shelled out on your behalf to buy the plane).

"But if I am RENTING a plane, that means that the FBO will have insurance on it right?"


"Then won't I be covered by the FBO's insurance if the plane is already covered?"

Probably NOT. The FBO covers their aircraft for damage so that the plane can get repaired and back into service as quickly as possible.  But if you were flying (or taxiing, or moving the plane by hand, etc.) at the time of the damage, the insurance company that had to pay the claim will probably "subrogate" the claim - that means they try to get the money they paid out back from the party at fault.  That would most likely be you  in the above scenarios.  Also, the FBO will probably want to get the deductible for their insurance paid back from you as well.  Meaning you could be on the hook for the entire amount, even though the FBO had insurance.

"But if I damage a plane such that insurance would need to be used, I'll most likely not be around for the financial aftermath.  I'll be watching from above, in a very dead manner, I would think."

That's possible, I suppose.  But your family will still be around for the aftermath.  Do you want your wife and children - already mourning your loss - to have to deal with the financial implications?  Also - take a look at the above list of ways a plane might be damaged.  If you prang a wingtip pulling a plane out of the hangar or drag it along the fence when taxiing in to a tie-down, do you think that will kill you?  Maybe your ego, a little, but you'll be fine and dandy to talk to the lawyers about how it happened, and a bank about the huge personal loan you'll need to pay for it (or an attorney of your own when you have to declare bankruptcy because of all the zeroes they tell you are needed to fix it).

"So what do I do?  Stop flying?"

Please don't.  I would hate to see someone give up something they enjoy, or possibly even want to make a career of out of fear of an unlikely event - albeit an event that COULD happen to any of us.

There are many options to choose from when it comes to "non-owned aircraft" insurance policies.  Here's a short (and incomplete) list (I do not get any money if you purchase a policy from any of these providers - this is just a list to help you find the right protection for your personal flying.  I have had policies from both Avemco and AOPAIA, and currently have CFI policy with Aviation Insurance Resources):

There are others, and your FBO might have pamphlets about a recommended provider.  You could also just ask other pilots or your own CFI.  I can recommend the three that I have used in the past (Avemco, AOPAIA, and my current one, AIR, though I - thankfully - have never had to make a claim), but do your own research and choose the one that meshes with the kind of flying you do.  As with buying a plane - it's all about the mission!
The last thing we should discuss about choosing a renters insurance policy, is that you don't want TOO much coverage, or you're paying more than you need to.  Find out from your FBO what their deductible is, and make sure you get Physical Damage Liability to cover that amount (but no more).  In other words, if your FBO has a $5000 deductible, get $5000 of physical damage coverage (but no more).  That will cover the deductible and keep you from being charged for it by the FBO.  The rest of the coverage (property damage, medical, etc.) is dictated by your comfort level, but generally the minimums will suffice for the kind of small aircraft we fly for training.

Do you have any experience with non-owned aircraft insurance? Claim that knowledge by leaving a comment below!
Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio.
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My first “student”

Training FlightI have been flying for as long as I can remember. In fact, my first memory (fuzzy as it may be) is sitting on my dad's lap while he let me "fly" the airplane when I was about 3 years old or so.

I got my private pilot certificate in 1999, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2000 with a B.S. in Aviation Management, then started working in the industry, first as a Ramp Agent for a major airline, then at a fractional ownership company, working with the flight crews.

While there, I trained at the company's flight school, a part 141 program to get my instrument rating, which I finally completed in 2009 - life got in the way. Between work, buying (and fixing up) a house, changing jobs, starting graduate school, etc. - and a checkride SNAFU - it took me a long time to get my instrument rating finished.

But I went on from there to get my commercial pilot certificate in 2010, and then in early 2012, I finally completed my certificated flight instructor certificate, and flew my first "student" a week after.

This "student" happened to be a recently rated private pilot (he had passed his checkride about a month before flying with me) who wanted to rent airplanes from the FBO where I am a flight instructor now. He was getting checked out in a Cessna 172, which is the same plane he did all of his primary flight training in, so this was an "easy" way to break myself in as a flight instructor. I don't know if that was more fortunate for me, or for him!

Either way, he did a great job on all the maneuvers (including - but not limited to power-on and power-off stalls, slow flight, steep turns, slips, emergency procedures, normal takeoffs and landings, short & soft-field takeoffs and landings, etc.). Knowledge-wise, he knew his stuff pretty well, too. I probably under-charged him for the ground time...

And I learned a good lesson as well: pay attention to the time! I ended up getting the plane back about 20 minutes late - which is a no-no on a beautiful, clear, smooth, spring evening when everyone wants to get up in the air!

Ultimately, it was a little strange to finally be the guy in the right seat asking the questions instead of being in the left seat answering them. And it was really strange to put MY signature in someone else's logbook.  But for my first 1.1 hours in the right seat - officially as a flight instructor - it was a good experience.

I think I'm going to really like being a CFI!


P.S. We'd like to hear about your first time flying as CFI - leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in central Ohio.

Want to fly with Andrew? Send him an email at andrew [at] smartflighttraining [dot] com

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