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From The Front Lines: Aviation

"There’s been over five consecutive years of underwriting losses in the aviation insurance market," says independent agent Tim Bonnell Jr. "Premiums have been increasing and underwriting has been stricter."
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From The Front Lines: AviationTim Bonnell Jr.

Founder, President & CEO

Aeris Insurance Solutions

Overland Park, Kansas

How did you get started at your agency? 

I'm a third-generation pilot and a second-generation aviation insurance agency owner. My grandfather designed aircraft instruments and components and operated private aircraft in his business. My father, Tim Bonnell Sr., caught the bug. He obtained his pilot's license while working at an airport fueling and moving aircraft. During this time, he met business people who would fly to see customers and return most days. He learned they were in the aviation insurance business. He entered the aviation insurance business in 1974 and started his own aviation insurance agency in 1982.

I grew up working various odd jobs in the family business, flying in the company aircraft with my dad to various events and visiting customers. When I graduated college in 2000, I joined the business and worked my way through various positions ultimately serving as vice president of sales and marketing. We sold my father's agency in 2014 and I formed my own agency in 2018.

Challenges in the aviation market?

There's been over five consecutive years of underwriting losses in the aviation insurance market. Premiums have been increasing and underwriting has been stricter. Liability awards and claims costs continue to get significantly higher for aviation insurers. The increased expense and limited availability of various aircraft parts create additional challenges with first-party and third-party claims. Reinsurance costs continue to rise.

Advice for a fellow aviation insurance agent?

For an agent seeking to enter the aviation insurance market fulltime, it is best to find an experienced agent to learn the ins and outs of the market from, as well as become familiar with the insurance carriers, policy languages, and the broad nature of aircraft and aviation operations.

For someone already in an agency who would like to start working with aviation risks, I would recommend that they educate themselves. This would include courses and educational seminars provided by the Aviation Insurance Association. I would also find an experienced and reputable aviation insurance agency to co-broker aviation risks. This is something that my agency does for non-aviation insurance agencies. It will take time to get to know the risks and coverages. Given the highly specialized nature of aviation insurance and the many complexities it possesses, not knowing what you're doing can lead to significant errors & omissions exposures.

Favorite success story?

I find real joy in crafting solutions for good people who need expert attention and guidance to accomplish their dreams. For example, the pilot who would like to transition into a higher-performing aircraft when they may lack the desired experience with many aviation insurance companies, or the long-time mechanic looking to start their own business.

Olivia Overman is IA content editor.

Monday, September 11, 2023