Posted by: Jeff Rhodes | August 26, 2011

Hurricane Considerations

The news today is obviously dominated by the threat of Hurricane Irene, now just off the NC coast, headed for the Outer Banks, coastal Virginia, DC, and points north. Certainly, hurricane stories bring some sensational images.  But, for airplane owners and airport businesses, they pose a very real risk. 

In the wake of any hurricane strike, airports are often among the hardest hit.  After all, most airplanes are made to fly in winds much lower than what even a mild hurricane can produce.  When picking up the pieces, many airplane owners are left with questions.

Who’s insurance pays if the FBO’s hangar falls on by airplane?  What if another airplane breaks its tiedowns and collides with mine?  What duty does my FBO have in securing my airplane? 

The thing to remember here is that a hurricane is an extreme natural occurrence.  The law requires an FBO to exercise “ordinary care” in protecting a customer’s airplane entrusted to that FBO.  The extreme forces of nature, and the damage that they can cause, are beyond the scope of “ordinary care.”  As an aircraft owner, you are on your own should your aircraft be damaged in a hurricane – or any other natural disaster.  You won’t be seeing relief from the FBO, unless they committed some act of gross negligence (i.e. -they contracted with you to store your airplane inside, and then intentionally pushed it outside prior to the storm, resulting in damage that otherwise would not have occurred.) 

Will my insurer pay for me to evacuate my airplane in advance of the storm? 

Many policies have provisions for paying expenses associated with evacuating.  Policies differ, but many offer to pay actual expenses up to $500 or $1,000 per storm.  The terms usually require that there be a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning issued for the area where the airplane is based and often require that the aircraft be moved to an area some distance away from the affected region. Read YOUR policy for the specifics – don’t rely on what your hangar mate thinks his second cousin’s policy used to say. 

Another important note – SOME companies actually REQUIRE the evacuation of insured aircraft from affected areas, or impose a significant deductible penalty or any damage incurred during the storm if the aircraft is left behind. 

What should I do if my aircraft or airport property is damaged?

While the devastation following a major hurricane can be traumatic, it is expected and usually handled very efficiently by the aviation insurance companies.  As soon as you can, call your agent or claims hotline and report the damage.  Take pictures.  Secure the aircraft as best you can to prevent further damage.  Chances are that yours was one of many aircraft damaged in your area.  The insurance adjusters will most likely be on site to inspect the wreckage all at one time.  Hull claims for storm damage are usually paid in fairly short order. 

Batten down the hatches and stay safe.  Don’t do anything foolish to save property.  Airplanes can be fixed or replaced.  Your life and the lives of your family are the most important considerations.  Welcome to hurricane season! 

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