May 13, 2014
By Dan Namowitz
Georgia has become the latest state to pass a measure giving private airstrip owners immunity from civil liability in connection with the recreational use of their airfields.
House Bill 494 was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal on April 29. Among its provisions was language that adds aviation activities to a list of definitions of recreational property uses for which property owners are afforded liability protection. There are approximately 200 private airstrips in the state, said Bob Minter, AOPA southern regional manager.
"Needless to say, we’re pretty happy," said Minter. He credited state Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-District 17) with introducing the key amendment, and Sen. Bill Heath (R-District 31), a pilot, for working with aviation advocates in spearheading the legislative effort.
Georgia has joined 21 other states in passing a recreational-use provision for aviation, according to the Bozeman, Mont.-based Recreational Aviation Foundation. Building "aviation-friendly civil protection laws" is one of the foundation's primary goals, said Recreational Aviation Foundation President John McKenna.
"We're very pleased to add Georgia to the growing list of states that recognize the value of recreational aviation," added Eric Davis, the organization's Georgia state liaison, who worked with Minter and Heath to mobilize private airstrip owners and win passage for the provision.
The aviation advocates added that support from Amy Hudnall, deputy director of the Aerospace Division of Georgia’s Department of Economic Development, was “instrumental to the effort” to pass the liability protection.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
AOPA expressed concern in a meeting with town officials from East Hampton, New York, that restrictions proposed to curb airport noise “overwhelmingly” generated by transient commercial flights would unfairly burden traditional airport users.
AOPA told lawmakers that a tax-abatement bill introduced in Nevada would stimulate aviation business and make more services available to members.
Two bills that would increase aviation fuel taxes and tap some proceeds for nonaviation purposes could place New Mexico in conflict with federal grant guarantees.
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