March 7, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
Efforts in the states are continuing to open access to private airstrips, with Wyoming the latest to pass an AOPA-backed liability-relief measure, and Oregon introducing a similar bill.
In Wyoming, House Bill 90 became law March 4, having earned overwhelming support as it made its way through both houses of the state legislature. It could open access to more than 70 privately owned airfields, said Mark Kimberling, AOPA director of state government affairs.
The bill adds aviation to the list of recreational activities on private property for which landowners in Wyoming face reduced liability. Such provisions can have a ripple effect—and boost local economies—by broadening access to areas for camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation, at no cost to the state. The measure takes effect July 1.
AOPA Northwest Mountain Regional Manager David Ulane worked closely to rally support for the bill with sponsors Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-District 54) and Sen. Michael Von Flatern (R-District 24) and with Wyoming Pilots Association President Roger Williams. Ulane traveled to Cheyenne, Wyo., on Jan. 17 to testify before the House Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee in support of the bill.
Other supporters who testified include the Wyoming Stock Growers Association and private airfield owner Bob Symons, who shared his reasons for supporting the measure in this AOPA interview.
Bill introduced in Oregon
In Oregon, House Bill 2016 was introduced on Feb. 27, and could open access to an estimated 326 privately owned airstrips. The bill, which has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, is sponsored by Reps. Vicki Berger (R-District 20), Jules Bailey (D-District 42), Cliff Bentz (R-District 60), Deborah Boone (D-District 32) and Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-District 16), an AOPA member.
In a March 8 letter to committee Chair Jeff Barker, Ulane urged support on behalf of AOPA’s 6,000 members in Oregon.
Ulane is working closely with AOPA member Phil Olson, state liaison for the Recreational Aviation Foundation, and Dennis Smith, president of the Oregon Pilots Association to gather support for the measure. The Recreational Aviation Foundation is an active proponent of so-called recreational-use statutes in the states, Ulane said.
On Feb. 19, AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro and Ulane met with Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, and lead sponsors Berger and Johnson to urge support.
“The proactive approach AOPA has taken with this bill is an excellent example of how AOPA’s new regional manager program is reaping benefits for members,” Kimberling said.
Oregon members can track the bill. Members should encourage their representatives to support the measure as it moves forward. Members also can monitor the @AOPANorthwest Twitter feed and the AOPA Northwest/Mountain Region page for updates.
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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