January 15, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Editor’s note: Since the article’s publication, the bill passed the House Jan. 31 and moved to the Senate, where it was assigned to the Committee on Judiciary. During House action the measure acquired 17 additional co-sponsors.
More than 210 private airfields could become accessible to general aviation pilots in Arkansas if the state joins those that have passed laws providing liability protection to property owners for the recreational use of their lands.
To achieve that goal, state Rep. Joe Jett (D-Success) has submitted a bill to amend the state’s recreational-use statute by adding aviation activities to those uses afforded liability protection, said Yasmina Platt, AOPA central/southwest regional manager.
Jett filed his legislation, House Bill 1020, on Jan. 8.
“In Arkansas, an estimated 77 percent of all flights within the state are completed using general aviation aircraft,” Platt said. “Amending the recreational-use statute could increase general aviation activity still more, and promote flights into Arkansas by out-of-state visitors.”
Airfields affected by the change would remain under private ownership, and pilots should continue to ask owners’ permission to use their airstrips. But 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, she said.
Currently, Arkansas only has eight private airports open for public use. But there are 206 registered privately owned, private-use airports and many more unregistered private airfields.
“Therefore, the number of potential airports that could be opened up if House Bill 1020 is passed exceeds 210,” said Platt, who assisted the sponsor in drafting the bill.
AOPA will work in cooperation with the Recreational Aviation Foundation and local aviation advocates for passage of the bill. Platt urged members in Arkansas to contact their legislators and urge support for the measure.
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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