Insurance for British Competitions

Insurance for British Competitions by Phil Clark


This article, in line with the others, is written in the form of five points, hopefully ‘five things’ format is fairly easy to remember.  It is intended that the first and last are kind of obvious and then the bit in the middle is just logical. With this in mind we want to present some considerations around insurance for pilots that may be new to competitive flying or equally for those that are stepping up a level.  You may wish to revisit this and other learning resources every few seasons, links and references may change and be updated.

Types of Insurance

Third party is required for the damage you may do to someone or something else, for most pilots at our competitions this will be covered by the insurance included with the BHPA membership fee.  If you are coming to one of our comps from a country other than the UK then you need to ensure you have adequate cover.

Search and rescue cover will find you if you go missing, repatriation cover will get you home, medical cover will pay your health care bills, regular travel insurance will only cover canceled flights and lost luggage or getting robbed in town between the airport and bus station. 

When you arrange insurance be sure you have adequate cover for the value of the kit and consider the risks you expose yourself to.

Common pitfalls / shortfalls

Many people rely on regular household cover with an add-on for holidays but check the small print sections before you travel.  Make sure your equipment isn’t excluded or the destination is not on an exceptions list.  Insurance may limit you to a number of trips or maximum of days abroad, there may be exclusions around time spent on one trip.

You also need to do everything you can to minimise the risk of stealing, most thieves are opportunists, don’t make it easy, don’t leave things on view. Use boot covers in estate cars and consider using bike lock cables to slow down or deter thieves.

Finding and fixing you after a mishap

Search and rescue cover is this element of insurance, if you are truly lost in the wilds or a remote area the costs for finding you can be astronomical.  Plan on not getting lost, advise others of your plans, invest in a tracker device and use it.  Make it easy for you to be found, consider your kit choice and leave clues if you are walking out, eg sticks or stones to form arrows, above all, be predictable.  Some insurances will cap how much time or money they will spend on finding you, do not rely on a go fund me page to recover you.

In the UK we are blessed with the NHS where emergency care is free.  Medical bills can be extreme in places like the US.  Even fixing something like a Collis fracture of the wrist (from a simple fall to outstretched hand) can see a bill run into the thousands of dollars after assessment, painkillers, Xrays, casts, splints, review and follow up physio.

Consider what injuries you might be exposed to and the cost associated with immediate and continued care during recovery. Europe and the US are very different, heading to Morocco or Nepal may be different again.  The level of care and the timeliness of care may vary, if the only hospital that can do what you need is three days by road then would your insurance fly you somewhere by helicopter?

Getting you home

Repatriation is what this cover is about, if you got broken abroad are you going to be able to get yourself home unaided? Do you need help and assistance on the way back? Might you even need the care of nurses and / or doctors to ensure you survive the journey?

Looking at the cover and the small print is essential but you should only claim if you absolutely have to. Things may be difficult with a broken limb but not impossible. Claiming for assistance when you could manage with a bit of effort will ultimately drive up costs and limit the number of companies willing to underwrite our activities.

Final thoughts

Being completely incapacitated will cause headaches for those you are travelling with so carry your documents with you at all times. You may need your buddies to advocate for you and liaise with companies on your behalf. Keeping a hard copy of all your details and covers is prudent in the event your phone is destroyed in a crash.

You may also find that when you book medical cover that any repatriation is just for you and not for your belongings, again, check the small print.

Mishaps abroad can be expensive, it is far better to reduce the mishaps than to rely on the cover you took out.  Have a wider margin, don’t get lost, land into wind and preferably out of the trees and the boulder fields.

Accidents do happen, accidents will happen, no pilot launches thinking that today is the day they will crash, but inevitably some do and sometimes it’s bad. Just in case, being well covered eliminates a lot of the worry in the early aftermath of an incident.


Check the small print, don’t claim unless you really have to and behave as if you have no cover at all. For more on the UK scene there is an excellent telegram group