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Life Insurance for Pilots: What to Know

Commercials can make purchasing life insurance seem like a walk in the park. However, many have unanswered questions about insurance as it applies to our daily lives. One of these questions is: can pilots purchase life insurance? Does it change the process? While seemingly confusing, the process isn’t much different from anyone buying a life insurance policy; there are just a few things to remember when pursuing life insurance as a pilot.

Key takeaways:

How does being a pilot affect life insurance?

When a pilot applies for life insurance, nothing is different from the process anyone else might undergo when purchasing a policy. However, a pilot can expect higher premiums than the average applicant. These higher rates are because the underwriting process for life insurance policies measures the risk insureds carry for dying. This process includes many behaviors and factors, from smoking to family medical history. An applicant's career is taken into consideration as well.

The life of a pilot is a career that can add additional risk. The inherent risk of plane crashes, the added stress of the role, and the lifestyle of constantly traveling to different locations can impact the pilot's life expectancy. As a result, the premiums of the life insurance policy often increase.

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Do pilots need special insurance?

Despite the added risk, there is not a specialized policy specific to pilots that is widely offered. A typical life policy that anyone can purchase would suffice for pilots. However, pilots looking for more favorable rates could consider a policy through the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). The AOPA partners with various companies to ensure affordable life insurance options for pilots.

The only unique insurance policy that pilots regularly interact with is an aircraft policy. While these policies cover the plane and the equipment on board and protect against liability claims from passengers on board should there be an incident, these policies do not ensure the lives of the pilots.

Does the type of pilot matter in underwriting?

While premiums are likely to increase if the applicant for life insurance is a pilot, the type of pilot impacts the insurance premiums differently. Pilot insurance can be rated differently depending on the type of pilot and the type of aircraft flown.

Commercial pilots

Commercial pilots can receive the most favorable rates because their jobs are regulated. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) heavily regulates pilot life in the commercial flight industry. From the type of aircraft flown to the number of hours a pilot can work, the FAA’s regulations create a safer environment for commercial pilots and reduce the risk of an accident.

Most insurance companies will ask commercial pilot applicants if they participate in any additional flying, whether as a helicopter pilot, flight instructor, or other variation. This additional practice is common for commercial pilots and likely won't result in denying a life policy but may increase premiums.

Private pilots

Private pilots are at a much higher risk for accidents as their activities are less regulated by the FAA. While this amount may be higher than commercial pilots, policy rates are often determined by multiple factors, such as the type of aircraft flown, the pilot's experience, and the number of hours flown yearly.

The number of yearly flight hours factors into the underwriting process. Too few hours can result in an inexperienced pilot, and too many hours can lead to exhaustion or other adverse conditions. Either end of this spectrum can result in what is referred to as a “flat extra,” which is an additional flat fee added to the base premium policy cost.

Helicopter pilots

Helicopter pilots are similar to private pilots in that they, too, are under consideration for a flat extra added to their premium. It is important to note that helicopter pilots can expect higher premiums when flying for commercial purposes rather than personal business or pleasure. The reason for using the helicopter also factors in, as the risk for a helicopter pilot flying for a police department is higher than flying for vacation destination tours.

Student pilots

Although a student pilot is under continual observation by a more tenured instructor, the risk isn't lowered. Statistics from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) show student pilots are often at a slightly higher risk for accidents. This risk creates somewhat higher policy premiums than students who have received their certifications to be a pilot.

Best life insurance for pilots

With so many factors that could potentially impact insurance rates for pilots, it can be difficult to determine the best policy. The best course of action for pilots would be to speak to a life insurance broker, preferably one who has partnered with the AOPA. This will allow the agent to understand the pilot’s needs, what potential risks their job introduces into their lives, and how much premium they can afford. Oftentimes, these brokers are also able to help pilots understand if a flat extra amount could be added to the premium base.

However, some policies offer some general advantages that could serve to the advantage of a pilot. Policies like term life insurance could fit well, as these policies typically allow the insured to purchase more coverage for a lower premium, which would help offset some of the increased costs associated with the job. A survivorship policy may be a better option for pilots interested in a whole life option. These policies don’t pay out until the surviving partner of the insured passes away. This helps cushion the risk of early death for the pilot and may decrease the policy premiums.

Aviation Exclusion Rider

Some policies may include an Aviation Exclusion Rider. These riders are added to life policies owned by pilots and exclude deaths related to aviation disasters. This means that if the insured were to pass away in a car accident, the full policy benefit would be paid out, while if the insured were to die while piloting a plane, the insurance company would not be obligated to release the death benefit. These riders have become increasingly rare but still exist and are worth looking out for.


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