Disability Insurance for Pilots

Pilots have to meet strict health and safety requirements, and even relatively minor health conditions can cause them to lose their license. Pilots have invested in their careers, and disability insurance for pilots can protect this investment.

disability insurance for pilots
disability insurance for pilots

Disability Insurance for Pilots

Pilots have to meet strict health and safety requirements, and even relatively minor health conditions can cause them to lose their license. Pilots have invested in their careers, and disability insurance for pilots can protect this investment.

disability insurance for pilots

Pilot Careers and Outlook

Whether they’re going on a vacation, visiting relatives or traveling for business, many people depend on airplanes for transportation. Airplanes are also critical for corporate aviation, cargo delivery and even ambulance and emergency services. These airplanes can’t fly without highly trained pilots.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 142,600 airline and commercial pilot jobs in the U.S. Between in 2022, the number of pilot jobs is expected to increase by 4%. This means there will be an additional 5,600 pilot jobs between 2022-2032.

disability insurance for pilots

Pilots Have an Income Worth Protecting

BLS says airline and commercial pilots earn an average of $148,900 per year as of 2022. The median annual wage for all workers is only $45,760, placing pilots well above average in terms of income.

Pilots earn a nice salary, but first, they need to go through extensive training. Pilots need to complete flight training with an FAA-certified flight instructor, and many jobs also require a bachelor’s degree. Once they meet the FAA requirements, they can apply for commercial pilot certificate, airline transport pilot certificate or other pilot certificate.

All of this takes considerable time and money. According to Indeed, a commercial pilot certificate typically costs $55,000 to $100,000. Commercial pilots also need to log around 190 to 250 flight hours before they can be licensed, and that’s in addition to the other degree requirements that many employers have. Many pilots take out loans to finance their training. On top of the principal loan, they’ll also have to pay back interest, and that can increase the total cost of training substantially.

disability insurance for pilots

Medical Conditions Can Cost Pilots Their License

If a pilot has a medical emergency in air, everyone aboard the plane could be at risk. To prevent this from happening, pilots have to meet strict medical certification requirements.

According to the FAA’s summary of medical standards, first-class airline transport pilots and second-class commercial pilots have to meet a long list of medical standards:

  • Vision: Pilots need to have at least 20/20 distant vision, 20/40 near vision and 20/40 intermediate vision in each eye separately, with or without correction, as well as the ability to perceive certain colors.
  • Hearing and Audiology: Pilots need to demonstrate hearing of an average conversation voice in a quiet room at six feet with the back turned to the examiner and using both ears, or pass an audiology test. Additionally, pilots cannot have an ear disease or condition involving vertigo or a disturbance of speech of equilibrium.
  • Cardiovascular Heath: The current guideline maximum for blood pressure is 155/95. Additionally, first-class pilots are required to have an electrocardiogram (ECG) at age 35 and every year after age 40. Many heart conditions are considered disqualifying, including angina pectoris, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, cardiac valve replacement, permanent cardiac pacemaker and heart replacement.
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Pilots cannot have a diagnosis of psychosis, bipolar disorder or severe personality disorder. Additionally, a diagnosis or medical history of substance dependence is disqualifying unless adequate clinical evidence of recovery is provided, and a history of substance abuse in the preceding two years is disqualifying.
  • Other Disqualifying Conditions: Many other conditions can make pilots ineligible for medical certification, including diabetes requiring hypoglycemic medication, epilepsy, disturbance of consciousness with satisfactory explanation, transient loss of control of nervous system function without satisfactory explanation.
disability insurance for pilots

Securing Disability Insurance for Pilots

Some disability insurance carriers won’t insure pilots, but disability insurance coverage is available.

When securing disability insurance for pilots, it’s important to target carriers with special programs designed to meet the needs and risks of pilots. Specifically, the disability insurance policy should provide loss of license coverage. If the pilot losses his or her pilot license due to a medical condition, the policy should pay monthly disability benefits – even if the condition might not be considered disabling in other professions.

disability insurance for pilots

How Disability Can End Pilot Careers

Disability can end careers in any field. However, pilots are especially susceptible to this risk.

A hypothetical case study shows why this is true. Mark is a 25-year-old man who just earned his license as a commercial pilot. He has $100,000 in debt from his education and training, but because he’s not worried about this because he’ll earn a good salary as a pilot and be able to pay off his loans. He lands a job with a top airline. Then he’s diagnosed with adult-onset type 1 diabetes. Normally, a diabetes diagnosis would mean major changes, but it wouldn’t prevent a person from working. For Mark, the situation is different. He loses his medical certification, his pilot license and his job. Now he’s stuck with massive debt, but he doesn’t qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. He’s not sure what he’ll do next.

This is just one way a relatively minor disability can be a career-ender for pilots. Many people manage to continue working despite vision loss, mental illness, epilepsy and other health conditions. For pilots, this is not an option.

At the same time, pilots also have all the disability risks that other workers have. If they are diagnosed with cancer, they will likely have to take time off work to focus on treatments. Likewise, musculoskeletal disorders could force them into an early retirement. Pilots need to be in excellent health, but good health doesn’t last forever.

disability insurance for pilots

Comparing Disability Insurance Options

When comparing disability insurance options for pilots, pay attention to key issues:

  • What is the elimination period? Before receiving benefits, the elimination period must pass. A longer elimination period can lower the cost of the policy.
  • What is the benefit period? Some pilots may lose their license permanently due to incurable medical conditions, so it’s important to consider the length of the benefit period.
  • What riders are available? Riders can provide additional benefits, although they can also raise the cost of the policy. Pilots may be interested in student loan riders, cost-of-living-adjustment riders and other riders that meet their unique needs.
  • What is the definition of disability? This is critical for pilots, who can lose their license due to many different medical conditions. Pilots who have to switch to other industries for health reasons will likely take a major pay cut. This can be a financial burden that requires lifestyle changes, and it may leave pilots with no way to pay off their debt. Look for a disability insurance policy that covers loss of license for pilots.
disability insurance for pilots

Do You Need Disability Insurance for Pilots?

An insurance agent can help you compare your policy options and buy disability insurance coverage that meets your needs. Find an agent.

Are You an Insurance Agent?

Make sure your clients are securing the right coverage for their needs. DIS can help.
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The following resources can help you sell disability insurance to pilots.

disability insurance Marketing Spotlight: Disability Insurance for Pilots

disability insurance Loss of License Disability Insurance Video

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