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Student Pilots in Homebuilt Airplanes

By Bob Mackey, EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, administered by Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc.

December 16, 2010 — Many people dream of getting their pilot certificates. Some dream of learning to fly in an airplane they built themselves and others have a burning desire to buy a homebuilt airplane and learn to fly. If the latter examples describe you, will your dream come true, or will airplane insurance turn your dream into a nightmare?

Typically if you call an aircraft insurance agent and ask about coverage for a student pilot in a homebuilt airplane, the agent will tell you that airplane insurance is not available. For the most part this is correct - but not always. You may be able get airplane insurance for a student pilot to train in a homebuilt, but there are obstacles - some that might be impossible to get around. There may also be trade-offs or limitations, but you can’t say absolutely that airplane insurance is not available for a student pilot in a homebuilt airplane. (Note: The aviation insurance industry is an ever-changing environment; what you might be able to insure today you might not be able to insure tomorrow and vise versa.)

Today there are three aviation insurance companies we work with that will consider insurance for a student pilot in a homebuilt airplane. Generally the rest of the industry does not offer such coverage, but there are exceptions. One combination of student and homebuilt that came up a couple of years ago had surprising results.

The student was 17 and the airplane was not exactly the perfect homebuilt for training; however, there were mitigating circumstances. The airplane was built by the student’s father, who had also obtained his instructor rating in the airplane. Subsequently, in his spare time, the father provided transition training under authorization for transition training in homebuilts that was held by EAA. In addition the father had more than 300 hours in this particular airplane with more than half of that time doing transition training. In this particular situation, when the insurance company underwriter reviewed all the facts, coverage was approved.

So never say never, and make sure you have all the facts to improve your chances of getting insurance.

Here are some of the hurdles and possible solutions in finding insurance for a student pilot in a homebuilt airplane:

  • Right aircraft: Make sure your choice of airplane will serve as a reasonable training platform. Airplanes you would want to avoid might be tailwheel, high-performance, and ultralight crossovers (former Part 103 2-place trainers).
  • Experienced instructor: You will stand a much better chance of getting insurance if your instructor has experience either in the homebuilt airplane in which you plan to learn or a similar homebuilt.
  • Older students: This might not set well with some, but the fact is that aviation insurance companies are reluctant to offer insurance for older student pilots.
  • Right airport: The airport you choose needs to be a reasonable training location. Airports with short runways or significant runway obstructions will be an obstruction to getting insurance.
  • Location: Unfortunately it is pretty close to impossible to get airplane insurance for a student pilot in a homebuilt in Alaska and Hawaii.

I want to reiterate that airplane insurance for a student pilot in a homebuilt is not always impossible. Yes, there are hurdles, and some of those hurdles are pretty tall. Regardless, don’t give up on your dream. Step one: Look before you leap (i.e., look into the availability of insurance before you order your kit or buy a completed homebuilt). Step two: Keep an open mind. Just because the airplane you were thinking about or the airport at which you wanted to base your airplane aren’t the right match, that doesn’t particularly rule out other options.
Don’t give up on your dream. Call the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan and let us see what we can do.
Happy flying!

If you would like to know more about the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, or find the right insurance for the type of flying you do, call 866-647-4EAA (4322), or click here and complete the online quote request form.

Remember, when you insure your airplane through the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan you’re also helping support EAA Member Safety and EAA

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