April 26, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
AOPA is supporting the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) in its effort to pass legislation in New York state to indemnify private airport owners from civil liability in connection with recreational use of their airfields.
The RAF is advocating a measure introduced by state Sen. James L. Seward (R-C-I Oneonta) to expand existing law to include noncommercial aviation among activities for which owners are shielded from liability exposure.
RAF estimates that pilots could gain access to some 260 private airstrips, including many in rural areas, with the bill’s passage. Similar legislation recently won approval in New Mexico and Kansas.
The New York measure, S4513, was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 8. The committee is accepting written testimony on the proposal. AOPA is also working with the New York State Aviation Caucus and the New York Aviation Management Association to introduce a companion bill in the New York State Assembly.
“Recreational activity benefits the local economy, especially in sparsely populated areas with few municipal or privately owned, public-use airports,” said Craig Dotlo, AOPA northeast region representative. “New York state has indemnified private property for other types of recreational use, such as snowmobiling. The state is being asked to add noncommercial aviation to the list of recreational uses that area indemnified.”
In the northeast, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine have passed similar legislation, he said.
AOPA encourages pilots and aircraft owners in New York state to support the RAF initiative by contacting members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and to follow up with their Assembly members when the companion bill is introduced.
Members who would like more information on supporting the bill can email RAF board member John Nadeau.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
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