Life insurance for airplane pilots has traditionally been pretty plain vanilla. Life insurance for pilots has been more expensive than that for most people who have different professions, and it’s often been all about exclusion: that is, traditionally life insurance policies written on pilots have been not only more expensive, they have included riders stipulating that the life insurance company is not going to pay out if the pilot dies in a plane crash. The riders could be removed but only at a steep increase in premiums, and many pilots either didn’t want to have to pay those premiums or they were blissfully unaware that they had such a rider. Aviators are highly trained and none of them expect to die in a plane crash anyway.
Now it’s far less likely that someone, including a pilot, will be involved in a plane crash than it is that they’ll be involved in a car accident. On the other hand, when airplane crashes do happen, especially commercial airplane crashes, they are almost always fatal. For this reason, aviation life insurance has not been a great option, although if you are a pilot and want life insurance there’s not been any way around it.
But since 9/11/2001, the life insurance industry has been reconsidering life insurance on pilots. There was a fear that as a result of the downturn in the aviation industry, fewer pilots would get or even renew their life insurance policies. This has possibly led to the life insurance companies re-evaluating the way they treat and underwrite pilots, for there has indeed been a slow but steady surge in new pilot policies, and companies have also stopped lumping all airplane pilots together as being just all the same.
Commercial aviators are not the same as private pilots or “weekend barnstormer” aviators. The latter groups of pilots have considerably more chance of surviving an airplane crash than the former have. This has always been the case, but nowadays life insurance companies seem more aware.
But since this is a new trend, there are lots of different underwriting criteria being used by different life insurance companies when they choose to cover pilots. There is more “pilot centered” life insurance underwriting going on now, as life insurers attempt to distinguish between different kinds of pilots and more closely assess their risks of unexpected death. In many instances, life insurers are no longer excluding GA deaths from their coverage, or they do it’s cheaper to buy off the rider.
Aviation insurance is now something that pilots need to look at coming from many different companies. The life insurers are more willing to compete for their business now, and they have more available products as a result. However, the different companies have such different underwriting standards that they can have almost erratic differences in their approach to underwriting pilots.
For instance, one company might offer aviation life insurance that is cheaper than its competitors for coverage of those who are in the older age ranges, but is still quite expensive for those of the younger ages. Then, there can be situations where some life insurance companies, perhaps because their agents or underwriters are not as knowledgeable, will cover aviation-related risks where others will either exclude them with a rider or else charge a higher premium for the same amount of coverage on the same person. One example may be one company not checking on the exact type of non-commercial aviation engaged in by one pilot, such as to see if he engages in fire-fighting, which is very dangerous. The company that doesn’t check on this might unwittingly give a better premium for the same amount of coverage than another company where they are more pilot-savvy.
Some life insurers have more pilot-agents on their staff or underwriters who are more familiar with the actuarial stats about aviation. If you’re looking for aviation life insurance you should check around very carefully and compare as many different companies and types of policies as you can find.