What Is Aircraft Liability and Hull Insurance?

Definition & Examples of Aircraft Liability and Hull Insurance

A female pilot is seated in the cockpit. She's wearing sunglasses and wearing headphones.
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Aircraft liability and hull insurance protects firms that use planes and other aircraft for business purposes. Aircraft aren't covered under standard liability policies.

Learn more about this insurance and how it works.

What Is Aircraft Liability and Hull Insurance?

Many firms use airplanes, jets, or helicopters for business purposes. Some only use them occasionally for a special project or a business-related social outing. Others, like crop-dusting businesses and aerial mapping companies, use aircraft regularly.

Flying creates unique risks for businesses that own and use aircraft. Accidents can cause serious injuries or even death, and the aircraft and/or other property can be damaged or destroyed. That’s why insurance coverage for aircraft is so important. 

Businesses that use aircraft shouldn't rely on their commercial general liability (CGL) policy for protection. The standard policy contains a broad aircraft exclusion that eliminates coverage for most aircraft-related claims.

To protect themselves, businesses should buy aviation insurance. There are two main categories of coverage—aircraft liability insurance and hull insurance, which covers physical damage to the aircraft. They can be purchased together or separately, and in a variety of iterations.

How Aircraft Liability and Hull Insurance Works

Aircraft policies from insurers including Great American, QBE, and Arch cover third-party bodily injury and property damage claims against an aircraft owner or operator.

How Aircraft Liability Coverage Works

The policies include three types of liability coverage:

  • Bodily injury or death sustained by third parties other than passengers
  • Bodily injury or death sustained by passengers
  • Damage to property owned by third parties

These coverages may be purchased individually, with each form of coverage subject to a separate limit per occurrence. Alternatively, all three may be covered under one agreement subject to what’s known as a “smooth limit,” or a single combined limit per occurrence. 

If your insurer insists on a bodily injury sublimit, try to avoid a per person limit that may restrict payouts for people injured on the ground as well as passengers. Opt instead for a “per-passenger” limit, which only limits coverage for passengers. A per-person limit means that you could be liable for costs if a non-passenger is extensively injured and sues for damages beyond your policy limits.

For example, if a plane makes an emergency landing and collides with a vehicle, the driver of the vehicle is a non-passenger. Suppose your policy has a $1 million per occurance limit and a $100,000 per person limit. In that case, it will only cover the driver's injuries up the $100,000, and you're responsible for any costs beyond that. If your policy has a $100,000 per passenger limit, any injured passengers would be subject to that limit, but the driver could be paid up to the per occurrence limit.

Liability Exclusions

Some risks may be excluded from aircraft liability policies. Common exclusions include:

  • Expected or intended injury
  • Bodily injury to employees
  • Liability imposed under a workers’ compensation law
  • Contractual liability, which is when you assume liability by signing a contract
  • Injury or damage caused by the application of fertilizers or other substances (crop dusting)
  • Injury or damage caused by pollution, noise, or electrical or electromagnetic interference

How Aircraft Hull Insurance Works

To insure against physical damage to an aircraft, businesses need to purchase aircraft hull insurance. Many policies offer the following three coverage options:

  • Ground and flight: Covers damage to the aircraft caused by any peril (including disappearance) not specifically excluded, whether the damage occurs when the aircraft is on the ground or in the air
  • Not in flight: Covers damage that occurs while the aircraft is on the ground, whether stationary or in motion
  • Not in motion: Covers damage that occurs while the aircraft is on the ground and stationary

Hull coverage typically excludes damage caused by wear and tear, electrical breakdown, war and related perils (including terrorist acts), excessive heat (to the engine), hijacking, and confiscation by a government authority. Both the not in flight and not in motion coverage options exclude damage caused by fire or explosion following a crash or collision that occurred while the aircraft was in flight.

Hull coverage is usually subject to a deductible, which may be a flat amount or a percentage of the insured value.

Loss Calculations

Claims are based on the agreed value of the plane. If an aircraft is declared a total loss, the insurer will pay its agreed value. If the plane suffers a partial loss, the amount the insurer pays depends on who performs the repairs. 

If the plane is repaired by someone other than the insured (such as an aviation repair shop), the policy typically pays the cost to repair or replace the damaged property plus the cost of transporting the plane to and from the repair facility. If the insured performs the repairs, the policy pays for materials, labor, overhead (based on a percentage of labor costs), and transportation (the cost of moving the plane to and from the place of repair).

Warranties

A warranty is a promise by an insured that certain requirements have been met. If the promise is broken, the insurer can void the policy. Aircraft policies contain warranties that are unique to the industry. 

First, a pilot warranty states that the plane will be piloted only by the person named in the declarations or by someone who meets specific qualifications described in the policy. If the plane is piloted by someone else, the policy affords no coverage.

Similarly, an airworthiness warranty voids the policy if the insured aircraft doesn't have a valid airworthiness certificate. Federal regulations prohibit the use of any aircraft that does not have a valid airworthiness certificate.

A third type of warranty relates to how the insured aircraft is used. For example, Arch’s policy states that the policy is only valid if the aircraft is used for the stated purpose. Choices include pleasure and business, charter/taxi, and commercial. 

Key Takeaways

  • Aircraft liability and hull insurance protects firms that use planes and other aircraft for business purposes. Aircraft aren't covered under standard liability policies.
  • Aircraft liability coverage typically covers bodily injuries to passengers and third parties and property damage to third parties. Aircraft hull insurance covers physical damage to the airplane. You can buy these coverages separately or together. 
  • You must follow the policy terms for the claim to be covered. For example, your plane must be piloted by someone who meets the policy's qualification and it must be used for the purposes on your declaration page. 

Article Sources

  1. North Star Mutual. "Commercial General Liability Coverage Form," Page 4. Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  2. IRMI. "Smooth Limits." Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  3. Arch Insurance Group. "Aircraft Hull and Liability Policy," Pages 8-9, 14. Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  4. IRMI. "Hull Coverage, Aircraft." Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  5. Arch Insurance Group. "Aircraft Hull and Liability Policy," Page 2. Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  6. Arch Insurance Group. "Aircraft Hull and Liability Policy," Pages 2, 8-9. Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  7. AOPA. "Guide to Aircraft Worthiness." Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.

  8. Arch Insurance Group. "Aircraft Hull and Liability Policy," Page 1. Accessed Sept. 5, 2020.