Despite Experience, Senior Pilots Are Charged Higher Insurance Premiums

by Victoria Neuville
Copyright 2020. All rights reserved!
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine (online) – December 2020/January 2021 issue

The saying goes that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.

After decades of safe flying, many senior pilots are experiencing premium hikes on their aircraft insurance policies. It is all a part of the current insurance industry trend of rising rates and increased requirements, causing many pilots age 70 and over to consider stepping back from flying. As a commercial pilot myself, breaking this news to my clients as an agent at Aviation Insurance Resources (AIR) is never easy. I realize an incredible role aviation has played in my life and have experienced firsthand the possibility of not being able to fly again. It is a painful decision and not easy to make.

For over 10 years carrier competition kept aviation insurance rates at a record low. Due to the combination of low premiums and increased claim costs, carriers realized their business plans were no longer viable and raised rates a minimum of 20-30% on their entire book of business. To further protect their interests, stricter training and pilot experience requirements were also implemented. Many of my senior pilots have received increases double of what they paid the previous year or received restrictions, such as only flying with another pilot (usually age 80-plus) or must complete annual medicals by an aviation medical examiner and/or annual flight reviews. Some have been unable to obtain terms at all.

Many of my senior clients have been flying since their teens and have never been in an aircraft accident nor filed a claim. Some are Airline Transport Pilot-certified with over 30,000 hours, but still receive increases based solely on one number – their age. In my discussions with the many underwriters we work with, each cite that their decision for the steeper rate hikes on senior pilots is that many result in larger claims, especially when dealing with retractable gear and multi-engine aircraft.

A report by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, “Aging and the General Aviation Pilot,” states that pilots over 60 have been involved in more accidents than that of their younger counterparts. Delayed reaction times and physical health were discussed as possible factors.

I am honest with each of my senior pilots when they call about a new aircraft purchase or inquiring on what they should expect for their renewal. I tell them that they will likely being paying more than they are used to, but there are actions they can take to ensure they are receiving the best available rate and policy:

1.) Be prepared. Get all your information ready for your aviation insurance agent. Your birthdate, medical date, flight review date, ratings, and all applicable hours and training certificates for all pilots on your policy.

2) Start early. For more complicated or larger insurance policies, it is important to provide yourself and your agent plenty of time for renewal. Underwriters may have questions on your policy and could go back and forth with your agent before they offer them – and ultimately you – firm terms.

3) Be flexible. Some insurance carriers will not accept BasicMed for their senior pilots. Maintain a Third-Class Medical Certificate by an Aviation Medical Examiner, if you can. Also consider whether or not you would be willing to only fly dual with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or another pilot.

4) Consider your aircraft needs. Some carriers will not write new business for pilots over the age of 69. Others are not renewing pilots over the age of 75 that fly retractable gear or multi-engine aircraft. Does a single-engine, fixed gear aircraft fit your flying needs? This will result in a better rate and make your insurance risk more attractive to the underwriter.

5) All markets. Work with an aviation insurance specialist who is appointed by all the major aviation insurance markets. While the claims ratio fuels the industry premiums, there is still competition amongst the carriers.

6) Be loyal. If you are currently working with an aircraft insurance agent who you trust and has consistently provided quality service, think twice before shopping around for a policy with another agent, as it could disrupt the market for you.

7) Stay put. If you are a senior pilot with a current insurance policy, do not let it lapse! Your current carrier may no longer offer terms if you come back to renew a policy later. In addition, if you downgrade coverage (hull value or liability limits), you may not be able to increase it again. If your agent has done their work properly, you should currently be receiving the best option for your aircraft.

I agree that age can be just a number, and some of my clients are probably quicker than me behind the yoke, but the industry has changed. My job is to guide my clients through the application and renewal process by being open and honest, which is what I have strived to do. I believe I speak on behalf of all the pilots and agents at Aviation Insurance Resources, when I say that older pilots are some of our favorite clients. The stories and wisdom they have shared with us are priceless! Without them, we would not be the pilots we are today. As with any industry, insurance is cyclical, and we will work hard to keep our clients (old and young alike) abreast of the latest changes.

Aviation Insurance Resources is an aviation insurance broker of pilots for pilots. Each agent at Aviation Insurance Resources brings a unique aviation background to the table and is dedicated to guiding you through this new insurance market. Visit www.air-pros.com or call 301-682-6200.

Editor’s Note: Victoria Neuville is an agent with Aviation Insurance Resources.

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