Airfield owners win liability protection in Arkansas

February 13, 2013

beebee Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (seated) signed a recreational use statute into law that could open more than 210 private airfields to pilots. Second row, left to right: Rep. Joe Jett, a pilot and AOPA member who sponsored the bill; Gov. Mike Beebe’s policy adviser, Jon Moran; co-sponsor Rep. Mary Broadaway; John Knight, director for the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics; Robert Shingledecker, RAF member and Winfield Airpark owner; David Myrick, RAF Arkansas liaison; Rep. Harold Copenhaver, co-sponsor; and Rep. Chris Richey, co-sponsor.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has signed an AOPA-backed bill that could open more than 210 private airfields to general aviation pilots by providing liability protection to property owners for the recreational use of their lands.

Beebe signed House Bill 1020 on Feb. 8, following rapid and unanimous approval of the measure in both houses of the Arkansas legislature. The action made Arkansas the latest in a series of states acting on so-called recreational-use statutes during recent legislative sessions.

AOPA reported on Jan. 15 that airfields affected by the measure would remain under private ownership, and pilots should continue to ask owners’ permission to use their airstrips. The change could remove a significant obstacle to convincing owners of restricted airstrips that the time has come to make their backcountry landing facilities available to the general aviation community. Currently, Arkansas only has eight private airports open for public use.

Yasmina Platt, AOPA’s central/Southwest regional manager, credited sponsors Rep. Joe Jett (D-Success), Sen. Robert Thompson (D-Paragould), and 16 more co-sponsors for shepherding the swift action. The bill was signed a month from the day following its introduction. Jett is an AOPA member and pilot. The bill was his first as a legislative sponsor, Platt said.

The Recreational Aviation Foundation also welcomed news of the bill’s final passage, noting in a news release that Platt and RAF legislative liaison David Myrick spearheaded the process of adding the state to the list of those that have acted to reduce liability concerns for use of private airfields.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.