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The European Commission has proposed that all aircraft operating in Europe should be required by EU law to carry insurance covering liability for damage to third parties, including damage resulting from war and terrorism. The minimum amount of cover would depend on the maximum take off weight (MTOW) of the aircraft.

The draft regulations are currently being discussed by a Working Group of the Council of Ministers and by the Regional Affairs, Transport and Tourism Committee of the European Parliament. They could become law as early as next June. If they are implemented without modification the effect on sporting and private flying would, to say the least, be dramatic in the extreme, if not terminal.

Under the draft proposals all powered aircraft, other than ultra-lights, whose MTOW is less than 25,000 kg would be required to have third party cover of at least £65 million. It is possible that some non-powered aircraft, such as gliders, will be covered by the final proposals.

The present UK position is that third party cover normally excludes war and terrorism and is only compulsory for commercial operators. In the case of the latter the minimum combined passenger and third party liability depends on aircraft type and weight. For example, single-engined non turbine aircraft require £3 million cover and twin-engined aircraft under 6000 kg with 10 or less seats require £5 million. In practice most non-commercial aircraft in the UK have cover ranging from £1 million to £5 million for combined third party and passenger risks. The present UK law or practice is considered entirely satisfactory by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). UK accident statistics covering the last 10 years show that the number of accidents involving third parties is minimal and it is understood that third party claims arising from them have always been met in full.

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to see that the proposals would increase the insurance costs of sporting and private flying so dramatically that many of those involved would give up flying altogether.

The DfT and CAA are vigorously contesting the proposals. The Royal Aero Club (RAeC) is doing likewise through Europe Air Sports. The risk is, however, that the official UK line may be a minority voice in the European debate.

The RAeC is seeking by all possible means, including lobbying MEPs, to propose that (a) The regulations do not apply to sporting and private flying, but if they do (b) The minimum cover should be reduced so that it realistically reflects (i) The risk of a third party claim and (ii) The amount of damage which the aircraft can cause, assessed by past empirical evidence and an objective risk assessment complemented by an economic cost / benefit case (iii) Indemnity limits (applying pre the events of 9/11) agreed in December 2000 by the European Civil Aviation Conference - which for aircraft up to 2,000 kgs would be cover of about £1.3m

Further Information

The draft proposals and other relevant documents are shown below together with details of the websites from where they can be obtained

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators Brussels 24.9.2002 COM(2002) 521 final (2002/0234(COD))

Official Record Series 1 - Annex 2: Minimum levels of insurance for holders of UK operating licences and air transport licences. =746

CAA's CAP735 Aviation Safety Review 1992-2001 [See Section 16 Risk to Third Parties]

Royal Aero Club of the UK 5 February 2003


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