It was supposed to have been a fun December evening spent viewing the twinkling Christmas lights around Dallas from the lofty vantage point of an Aviat Husky. Instead, joy turned to tragedy moments after the flight ended, when the Husky’s passenger, a 23-year-old fashion model named Lauren Scruggs, climbed out of the airplane onto the dark ramp and accidentally walked into the idling airplane’s spinning propeller. She lost her left hand and eye in the gruesome accident, and today faces a long and difficult road to recovery. Now it will be up to the insurance companies to work out who foots the cost of her substantial medical bills.
If you think something similarly disastrous could never happen with you at the controls of an airplane, think again. While this tragedy was preventable, even careful pilots who take all precautions to ensure the safe outcome of every flight can fall victim to circumstances that are simply beyond their control.
It happened to the pilot of a single-engine Cessna as he was landing at night at his home airstrip. The touchdown was smooth and the rollout seemed normal until the pilot heard a clunk. Stopping the engine and stepping out to investigate, he noticed a large dent about midspan on the right wing. Expecting perhaps to find the carcass of a deer, he began walking the length of the runway — and instead discovered a man, alive, possibly intoxicated and definitely with his pants around his ankles, lying on the ground. Apparently, this local resident had thought it would be a hoot to run out onto the runway and moon the pilot as he was landing. Instead, he got to experience what it’s like to be struck in the back of the head by an aluminum airplane wing.
While some might find humor in this story, the pilot and his insurance company weren’t laughing — not only did the wing have to be reskinned, but the pilot also was later sued for personal injury.
How Much Aviation Insurance Coverage Is Enough?
The bottom line is, if you’re going to continue flying and aren’t yet fabulously wealthy — or maybe especially if you are — you need aviation insurance. There are a variety of different types of coverage you can buy depending on what kind of flying you do. If you own your airplane, lease it or share ownership among a small group, you’ll want to purchase what’s known as a “pleasure and business” policy, which provides coverage for your personal flying. If you rent airplanes from the local flight school or belong to a flying club with lots of members, you’ll purchase renter’s insurance, also known as nonowner insurance, which will protect you should you have a mishap in an FBO or club aircraft.