March 1, 2012
By Dan Namowitz
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire’s signature was awaited on an AOPA-backed liability protection bill that could broaden access to private airfields in the state.
House Bill 2244, providing liability immunity for owners of privately owned airfields who allow public access, would take effect June 6, or 90 days after the state legislature adjourns. It passed the House on Feb. 9, and the Senate on Feb. 27, both on unanimous votes.
Throughout the legislative process AOPA teamed with the Recreational Aviation Foundation and the Washington Pilots Association to mobilize support for the measure, which includes aviation among recreational uses for which landowners are afforded liability protection when granting public access to their lands.
In late February, Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, and David Ulane, AOPA Northwest Mountain regional manager, met in the state capital of Olympia with key members of the Senate to press support for the bill, following House passage. In January, AOPA had issued a call to action that mobilized 12,000 members to support the measure, working in tandem with Recreational Aviation Foundation State Liaison Bob Kay, who is also a Washington Pilots Association member.
Backers of the bill pointed out to lawmakers that by broadening airfield-access opportunities for aircraft owners and pilots in Washington state, they would be boosting aviation-related economic activity statewide—with no state outlay of funds required.
The broader airfield access would also facilitate a wide range of activities including camping, hiking, and other outdoor recreation, they said.
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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