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Article as appears in Private Pilot Magazine, June 2001, by Leroy Cook

Insuring a Pilot's Life

I bought my first life insurance policy when I was 20 years old, mostly because I was the sole provider of a disabled parent, and I wanted to leave a measure of security if I should fail to wake up some morning. I still carry that original policy, which was quite adequate for its intended purpose of providing peace of mind. Not that dying weighed heavily on my mind; like all 20-year-old commercial pilots, I didn't figure I would go in an airplane crash. Shot off a bar stool by the lady's jealous husband, perhaps, or fragged by friendly fire in the paddies of Vietnam, but not with my hands on the controls. I didn't tell the life insurance agent I was a pilot, and he didn't ask.

In today's market, life agents have to ask, and your answers will make a difference in how the insurance company views your application. The problem with getting life insurance as a pilot stems from the notion shared by life underwriters that insuring risky lifestyles is bad business and that aviators naturally participate in a risky lifestyle. Go to you average neighborhood agent and ask about insuring your heirs against your death and you'll have two choices: accept a waiver of coverage if you die while acting as a crew member in a GA airplane, or submit to more expensive rate charts that equate pilots with rock climbers, divers and competitive motorsport racers.

All risk is presumed to be increased by added exposure, so the companies may give you a better rate if you agree to fly only 250 hours per year rather than pursuer a career as a 1000-hour-per-year professional pilot. This view prevails, even though aviators generally equate safety with the improved proficiency gained by keeping current. When you get right down to it, pilots are being told by life insurance underwriters not to muddy up their pool by asking to be included in their mix of policyholders unless they pay extra.

Well, Why Not?

Enter William J. Fanning, a Dallas-area insurance man who could see the need for special handling for pilots seeking life insurance and who was determined to do something about it. There are some mitigating factors in our favor, he noted. Pilots are, as a class, healthier than the median, with periodic physical exams, affluent enough to be good prospects and they've had a steadily improving safety record for the past 20 years. Why not, he reasoned, reward them with a pilots-only policy form that would be competitive with coverage available elsewhere? Life rates have been dropping due to competition in the insurance industry, so Fanning felt pilots ought to share in the savings.

Fanning's Pilot Insurance Center primarily gives what most pilots want: lower-cost term insurance that provides a death benefit for their vulnerable family, so the survivors won't be forced to give up their home if daddy doesn't come back from a trip. You don't have to be a member of a professional association to get PIC's preferred rates, although Fanning sells to commercial pilots, flight instructors and business pilots, as well as recreational or sport pilots. It's important to disclose the extent of your activities as part of the application process to make sure you're not leaving a hole in your protection. CFIs, for instance, are considered to be at slightly higher risk than nonprofessional pilots, but they can get coverage with PIC.

How much will it cost? Like any term insurance, it depends on your age, the term and amount of coverage, and your exact profile. Let's just say that PIC is competitive, its salespeople are all pilots and not on commission, and they know what they are doing. They'll be happy to quote rates based on your application, easily handled of the Internet or phone. As one example, a 45-year-old male, instrument-ratted pilot could get $500,000 worth of coverage for 20 years for only $845 per year. And these quotes are not from low-rated companies trying to muscle up business; PIC only uses companies rating A to A++ A.M. Best.

You can get level-premium term insurance for 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years if you're young enough. Pay annually, quarterly or monthly (you're always better off paying in larger amounts), or prepay a few years for additional discounts. If desired, permanent-type coverage that builds cash value and never sees a premium increase is also available.

How do you get the best rates? Start by being young, don't smoke or chew, pay annually, have an instrument rating and be female while you're at it. What makes your quote higher? Being well into middle age, having a history of health problems and flying as a student pilot, flight instructor or experimental aircraft pilot. You can be asked to take a physical to get your policy, but that shouldn't deter a pilot.

The important thing is to get protection for your family now, rather than putting it off until you're in an older age bracket or you have picked up a poor medical history and become ineligible. We never know what the future holds, but we can take some of the sting out of those surprises by having the coverage we need. Call or visit PIC today, and take care of filing the ultimate alternate, out of consideration for those you might leave behind.

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