February 15, 2012
By Jim Moore
Legislation that would offer clear liability protection for private airfield owners in Washington state has cleared the state House and now heads to the Senate. AOPA is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Washington Pilots Association (WPA) and Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) in support of the measure, which would clarify existing law that protects private landowners from liability if they choose to make property available for public use.
Many states have recreational-use laws on the books that protect private landowners from liability resulting from public use, provided that no access fee is charged. In Washington, House Bill 2244 would amend the existing statute to clearly include private airfield owners, who are unsure the present law pertains to them. That uncertainty has prompted many private owners to deny public access to airfields.
AOPA, the WPA, and RAF mobilized support from pilots for the measure, which has potential to increase the accessibility of a broad range of activities such as hiking, camping, and other outdoor recreation. For many people, airplanes and private fields offer the only practical means to reach remote destinations.
AOPA contacted lawmakers, and issued a call to action in January, mobilizing nearly 12,000 members in Washington state to voice their support. Bob Kay, the RAF Washington State Liaison (and WPA member), helped spread the word, working closely with AOPA staff including Northwest Mountain Regional Manager David Ulane. The legislation passed the House with a unanimous vote Feb. 9, and is now under consideration by the Senate.
“Working together, the aviation community has helped move the bill this far, and we’ll count on a continued, coordinated effort to see this commonsense measure signed into law,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy. “Members should contact their state Senators to make sure our messages of support are heard loud and clear in the capitol.”
Pecoraro noted that AOPA is also working to support similar legislation in several other states this year.
“General aviation offers unique opportunities to put some of our most beautiful destinations and natural wonders within reach, particularly for those with disabilities who might otherwise never experience what the backcountry has to offer,” Pecoraro said.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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