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As far as I know, most (or all) airplane owners purchase insurance that covers liability, if nothing else. Good idea or not, is aircraft insurance legally required in the US, in the way that automobile insurance is required?

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Aircraft insurance for personal aircraft is not legally required by any part of the US FARs, nor to my knowledge is it required by any state government, though I'm only familiar with New York in that regard. (As you'll note from the Wikipedia page you linked to, not all states require automobile insurance either, though most do now...)

Aircraft insurance is most directly comparable to marine insurance.
It's generally required by:

  1. Your lender (if you didn't pay cash)
    They want to be sure you have hull coverage so if the plane is damaged they still get paid.
  2. Your FBO or Airport Management.
    As a condition of having a tiedown/hangar most FBOs require some form of liability insurance in case you taxi into a building or another plane.
  3. Good old-fashioned common sense.
    A light piston single is unlikely to take out a building, but if you have an incident costs can rack up fast. Having someone else to step up and pay those big bills is beneficial.
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  • $\begingroup$ This is how I understand it as well, but I think that it would be silly to not have at least liability insurance with the potential damage that can be inflicted during an aviation accident. Hull coverage should be a financial decision made in a manner similar to any other type of insurance! $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jan 4, 2014 at 23:07
  • $\begingroup$ @lnafziger That's basically how I look at it too - If I were a billionaire and could set aside \$1M as a liability bond for my little Cherokee I would do that instead of insurance, but I'm not that rich. Hull insurance I look at this way: "I like having my own plane. If \$DEITY forbid I wreck it, I would like to be able to get another one. As I pay down my loan the hull payout becomes an increasingly sizable down-payment..." $\endgroup$
    – voretaq7
    Jan 4, 2014 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I actually know of a guy who owns a Lear 60 and doesn't keep it insured. If something happens, he said that he'll just buy another, lol. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jan 4, 2014 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ If you participate in competition aerobatics, the rules require a certain amount of liability insurance. I know this is an extreme edge case, but thought I'd mention it. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2014 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ @voretaq7 Insurance during competitions is required by the governing body of the sport in the US. I'm sure it's the same in other countries, but cannot back that up. To the best of my knowledge, the FARs don't mention insurance. $\endgroup$ Jan 6, 2014 at 2:26

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