January 22

Model Aircraft Insurance

On my website www.rookiercflyer.com I covered in some detail the desirability of joiningRC plane windscreen damage a club to help you learn to fly the best and safest way possible. One of the major advantages of club membership is the inclusive third party model aircraft insurance cover.

I am often asked whether insurance cover is necessary when the majority of model flying is done in wide open spaces with few if any obstructions that could be damaged by our model planes. This is a justifiable argument but ignores the fact that we often fly in the presence of others and there are flyers vehicles parked nearby that could potentially be damaged by out of control models. Just by way of example here is a link to a video showing the aftermath of a nasty rc jet accident that injured at least one person and several models and vehicles.

Not all rc plane flyers join clubs but instead prefer to fly alone on playing fields, recreational areas, etc. that are surrounded by properties and people. Such enthusiasts may claim that they only fly lightweight park flyer types that are relatively safe and incapable of causing serious personal injury.

I would suggest to them that they try to imagine the effect of a plane weighing around 1lb to 2lbs (0.4kg to 1kg) hitting a small child square in the face whilst travelling at around 30 to 40kms/hr. with a whirling propeller at the front. Do they really think that there would be no real physical damage to say nothing about a civil damages claim through the courts?

When it comes to property damage, I can speak from personal experience of an incident in which my car was damaged by an out of control model plane. The damage to the roof was extensive and the cost of repair in excess of £1000. Very fortunately I was at our model flying field and the guy whose plane went out of control was covered by his club membership insurance.rc plane crash into wall

It is not only cars that are vulnerable, sometimes buildings are close enough for a wayward model to find it and cause damage. Even a trainer like the one on the right has sufficient momentum to cause structural damage.

I’m not sure what material the building shown here was constructed from but it certainly didn’t resist the onslaught of this wayward model.

Things are going to get a little gory since we need to consider what happens when model planes come into contact with human flesh.

Again, speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that very seriousRC plane Facial damage injury can be caused by such incidents. I have included a photograph here that may upset some of a more sensitive disposition but I make no apology for it. Such injuries, especially when sustained by innocent third parties, can be very serious. The unfortunate gentleman in this photograph was hit in the face by one of the new generation drones that are taking the model flying fraternity, and others by, storm.

Such superficial injuries repair quite quickly, even though they may leave permanent scarring, but more serious injuries can by fatal. Never underestimate the enormity of the consequences of the flying machine you are responsible for.

The next picture, although a reconstruction for the purpose of Personal damamge by rc planedemonstrating the point being made, represents exactly what can happen if a large model collides with a human being.

Such an incident happened at our club here in Spain when an innocent bystander was hit directly in the stomach by a large petrol engined model that suddenly went out of control. The pilot tripped over and fell on his transmitter driving the throttle open.

The injured man was hospitalised for several months and it was touch and go whether he would survive in the early stages. His stomach was ripped open by the rotating propeller and it took several hours of surgery to save him.

Uninsured Implications

We need to be aware that the primary function of insurance is to protect the insured person in the event of a claim being made against them following an incident.

Imagine that you were to be found responsible for an incident and you were not insured. You would be personally liable for any damages or costs awarded under the jurisdiction of a civil court.

The implication of this is that you could stand to lose everything, an eventuality that has actually happened on more than one occasion.

Becoming Insured

At the risk of becoming repetitive, I can only propose again my suggestion that the best way to do this is to avail yourself of the inclusive insurance cover associated with club membership. From here on in I am going to concentrate on the two largest national governing bodies for radio control model flyers through which such insurance is readily available either as a club member or as an independent flyer.

For those of you for whom club membership is not practical, some national governing bodies offer cover for “country members” that can be purchased separately.

In the USA this is the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) whilst in the UK there is the BMFA (British Model Flying Association). Other countries have their own equivalent organisations. I suggest you Search online for the one that governs model flying activities in your country.

Insurance Through The AMA

The main features of their cover are as follows:

  • Liability Coverage for the Operation of Model Aircraft, Boats, Cars, and Rockets
  • $2,500,000 Comprehensive General Liability Protection for model activities for members, clubs, site owners, and sponsors
  • $25,000 Accident/Medical Coverage for members
  • $10,000 Maximum Accidental Death Coverage for members
  • $1,000 Fire, Theft, and Vandalism Coverage for members
  • Primary Site Owner Insurance
  • Cost: Age 19-65 – $75, 65 & over – $65

AMA Liability Protection applies to bodily injury or property damage caused by an AMA member. Any AMA  member who causes an accident resulting in an injury must report that accident immediately to AMA HQ.  This applies to accidents arising from the modelling activities of model aircraft, rockets, cars and boats, in  accordance with the AMA NATIONAL Safety Code(s).

There is no coverage for injury to a member or to his own family (Household and Relative(s) living in the member’s household) for claims or suits.

The policy does NOT cover business pursuits, i.e. any activity that generates income for a member beyond reimbursement of expenses. This business pursuit exclusion does not apply to individual members providing modelling instructions for pay to AMA members.

There is a $250.00 deductible (property damage only), which is the responsibility of the AMA member causing the accident.

The Accident/Medical coverage applies to injuries while engaged in model activities regardless of who causes the accident. It reimburses an AMA member in accordance with policy terms and conditions for only medical expenses (also the beneficiary for loss of life) incurred within 52 weeks of the accident.

The Accident/Medical coverage works as follows: It provides up to $25,000 for medical expenses and $10,000 for dismemberment or death.  The AMA member is directly insured and does not require a claim action by another person.

It pays for eligible expenses upon submission of bills or other documents certifying cost of treatment and that injury was caused by model activity.

Medical expenses are reimbursed only after submission to any other health plan, including Medicare.

There is a $750.00 deductible in respect of Fire, Vandalism, and Theft Coverage.

It provides up to $1,000 for loss of aircraft models and accessories, including RC equipment.  All theft loss  claims must be accompanied by a police report. NOTE: Theft has to occur from a locked vehicle or residential dwelling and there must be physical evidence of violent forcible entry.

There is a $100.00 deductible “excess” to any other applicable coverage, such as homeowner’s insurance.

Park Pilot Insurance

Park Flyer models must weigh two pounds or less and be incapable of reaching speeds greater than 60 mph. They must be electric or rubber powered, or of any similar quiet means of propulsion. Models should be remotely controlled or flown with a control line, remain within the pilot’s line of sight at all times, and always be flown safely by the operator.

The “per occurrence” limit of coverage available by this policy is $500,000 for claims involving bodily injury and/or property damage. These limits are for claims occurring during the policy period.

Coverage is provided only for accidents arising from the model activities.  There is no coverage for injury to a member to his own family (Household and Relative(s) living in the member’s household) for claims or suits.

The policy does NOT cover business pursuits, i.e. any activity that generates income for a member beyond reimbursement of expenses. This business pursuit exclusion does not apply to individual members providing modelling instructions for pay to AMA members.

This AMA insurance has a $250.00 deductible for property damage only, which is the responsibility of the AMA member causing the accident. Is over and above any other applicable coverage such as homeowner’s insurance.

This information is merely a brief summary. Complete details of coverage and exceptions are contained in the master policy available at www.modelaircraft.org

Insurance Through The BMFA

  • Civil liability insurance and personal accident insurance.
  •  Up to £25,000,000 per claim.
  • A county member receives exactly the same insurance benefits as members who join through a club. 
  • BMFA Insurance provides worldwide cover.
  • Cost:  Seniors £33 per annum, Junior £17 per annum.

BMFA insurance cover commences from the moment you pay the BMFA element of a Club joining fee to your nominated Club official. You do not have to wait for receipt of your BMFA membership card.  The most important factor is that the club have collected the fee and have formally registered you as a paid up member of the Club.

A Country Member is one who applies directly to the BMFA for membership (although they may or may not join a club), either by telephone or online, or joins at the BMFA stand at a show.  Here the member is technically insured from the date the application is received and processed although they do not receive their membership card until a few days later (postal services permitting).

Clubs may offer temporary BMFA membership and insurance cover to visitors to the Club from within the UK, who are not BMFA members but have been invited to use their flying facilities on a temporary basis.  A non-refundable fee of £5 is payable for a single period of 30 days.

Clubs may also offer temporary BMFA membership inclusive of insurance cover to visitors from overseas countries provided they are not involved in display or competition flying.  In the interest of international relations no charge is  made for this class of membership which again may be offered for a single period of 30 days.

Club liability insurance can be extended to cover first time visitors to a Club who have no previous experience of model flying but are seeking to try out model flying prior to joining a Club.  In this case cover will only be in place when the flights are being personally supervised by a nominated Club member approved by the Club Committee.  No charge will be made for this additional cover which will only be in place for a maximum of 3 days for any one first time flyer.

To learn more about the BMFA membership services visit www.BMFA.org .

Why Risk It?

I know that there are many people around the world flying radio controlled model planes of all shapes and sizes WITHOUT insurance cover. Don’t become this sort of irresponsible flyer, get covered for yours and your dependents peace of mind and for the protection of others.

The mere thought of causing any kind of damage without the protection of model aircraft insurance puts me in dread and is a scenario I dare not envisage.

If you have found this post useful take a look at some of my other posts at www.rookiercflyer.com.








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Posted January 22, 2016 by Colin Bedson in category "Essentials


  1. By Peter Coles on

    I am considering a position on a RC club committee. I would like to know what liabilities the club or the individual members of the committee have regarding any claims, personal injury or otherwis,that apply to normal club flying, what about
    when an event is staged, say for visiting jet flyers for example. If someone or property is damaged, where does the responsibility for damages lie?

    1. By Colin Bedson (Post author) on

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks for your interesting question.

      Model flyers insurance is the responsibility of the individual and everyone who flies any kind of RC model aircraft should be covered by third party insurance protection. It is rare for a club or any organisation that holds flying events to arrange additional insurance to protect against damage to persons or property resulting from flying accidents. This eventuality is covered by the individual’s personal cover whether it be on private land, a club site or an organised event.

      You will often see the statement-” proof of insurance required” when pilots are invited to fly at an event.

      I hope this answers your question Peter. I hope you enjoy getting involved with your club committee. Good luck.



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