The general rule of thumb in flying is that if you have the choice between landing on an airport runway or an off-airport location such as the 18th fairway of your local country club, you should choose an airport every single time.
Now, that didn’t stop famed actor and aviation enthusiast Harrison Ford from having to land on a Los Angeles golf course in 2015. Ford, however, didn’t have much choice in the matter.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, off-airport landings are simply part of the aviation game in that region. Whether it is that airstrips are too far and in between, or the mission simply calls for some backcountry landings, it is vital that you understand where your insurance stands on off airport landings.
So with your permission, I’d like to take a minute and help you understand what questions to ask and how to know you are properly covered.
Working with a Broker Who Knows What Questions to Ask
Perhaps it is a little self-serving, but I’m a big advocate for pilots sourcing their insurance through brokers who have been in the aviation insurance industry for a good amount of time. The bottom line is that brokers do not thrive or survive very long if they are not very skilled at ensuring their clients have the right coverage and that includes off airport landings. The pilot community is large and diverse, but not so large that sea stories of large losses and shady coverage do not spread far and wide.
The idea that off-airport landings are not routinely covered is not accurate, but any failure to catch singular exclusions could be costly. As a family and veteran owned business, we’ve been in the aviation insurance industry for over 40-years and we specialize in insuring tailwheel aircraft and fully understand off-airport insurance coverages.
Aviation insurance is complicated and that’s what you pay a broker to understand on your behalf. So whether that is with us here at BWI or with another broker, you should be able to pick up the phone and ask them to explain your off-airport coverage. If they stutter or struggle, you may want to shop around.
Planned Off-Airport Landing Preparation
Now, by and large, the best way to ensure that you don’t take a major loss during an off-airport landing is to put in the time and training to land them like an ace. I don’t know too many insurance providers who would fail to cover you when you make an emergency landing on an open fairway when no other option is available to you. If, however, you know that off-airport landings are in your future, then you put yourself at risk, by failing to make the necessary preparations.
A good example would be taking advantage of your current airport’s assets. Your airport runway has stripes and there are often plenty of them that offer you a large margin of error. Each time you land, pick a particular stripe and try to land on that stripe each and every time. Ask yourself what you would do if the margin for error were remarkably small and try to prepare for such a scenario. It is only after you have trained properly that a planned off-airport landing should cross your mind.
Peace of Mind with the Right Coverage
Finally, if you trust your broker and you trust your training, off-airport landings can open up a whole new world of air travel for you. Aviation is supposed to bring about freedom and being restricted to landing on airports seems a little contrary to that concept. You do need the right aircraft though as well. A good example of the right aircraft with the right coverage would be our Cessna 180/185 Insurance Program.
This policy was designed to meet the specialized needs of the 180/185 and it comes with NO off airport landing restrictions. Not to mention, it offers the broadest territory coverage that includes Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Central America, Bahaman Islands, and the West Indies. When great coverage meets a great aircraft with the right pilot at the helm, off-airport landing becomes the least of your worries.
In summary, I would encourage you to talk to your broker if you have any questions about off-airport exclusions. Please, pretty please, put in the work and training necessary before you attempt to set down in the great American wilderness. Finally, if we can be of assistance in any way, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Off-airport landings can be risky, but when done right, you will embrace the full freedom that flying has to offer.
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