Wisconsin Senate passes private airfield liability bill

Measure goes to state Assembly

November 14, 2013

The Wisconsin Senate approved a measure Nov. 12 that will provide liability protection for owners of private airfields used for recreational purposes.

Senate Bill 321 would include recreational aviation in Wisconsin's existing recreational-use statute. The current statute provides liability protection for private landowners when someone is using their land recreationally.

“However, recreational aviation activity is not specifically mentioned in the existing statute and is therefore creating concern amongst the aviation community and in turn limiting the industry's growth in the state,” wrote AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds in a Nov. 11 letter to state Senate President Michael Ellis. “By adding 'recreational aviation' to the list of acceptable recreational activities denoted in the [recreational-use statute], the Wisconsin legislature can provide the same level of liability protection afforded to skiers, ATVers, hikers, and others to the aviation industry while operating on privately owned land.”

The chief sponsor of Senate Bill 321 is Sen. Joseph Leibham (R), who led the legislative effort at the urging of local pilots Don Kiel, Recreational Aviation Foundation Wisconsin liaison Charles Aldrian, AOPA, and other aviation organizations across the state.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on Oct. 25 by a vote of 3-2.  It now goes to the Wisconsin Assembly.

“Additional liability protections for private airfield owners will spur increased aviation activity across the state and may increase the number of privately owned, public-use airports,” said Budds. “AOPA and other aviation organizations have been very successful in securing similar [recreational-use statutes] amendments in other states, with approximately 15 other states having enacted similar legislation with positive results.”