Private airfields in Tennessee could get the protection they need to open to the public, a move that AOPA hopes many other states will follow. A bill to provide liability protection to private airfield owners is awaiting Gov. Phil Bredesen’s signature.
“The fun of flying is no better than at a small grass strip,” said AOPA Southeast Regional Representative Bob Minter. “I think a lot of these airfield owners would love to let their fields be used as a catalyst to interest young children in flying.”
T-Top Airfield owner and AOPA member Ken Franks spearheaded the renewed effort for liability protection and mobilized more than 200 other private airfield owners and enthusiasts in the state.
The protection could limit the personal liability of more than 125 private airfield owners, allowing them to open their fields for recreational use. The bill places the same duty of care on the “landowner, lessee, occupant, or any person in control of land” that is used for “recreational noncommercial aircraft operations or recreational noncommercial ultralight vehicle operations” as the landowners whose land is used for recreational hunting, fishing, camping, boating, skiing, and other activities.
State Rep. Ty Cobb and State Sen. Doug Jackson sponsored the measure in their respective houses and played an instrumental role in getting the protection passed.
Minter recently met with a group of private airfield owners and said that many are not only looking forward to opening their strips to the public but also to sparking an interest in aviation among today’s youth.
“I think this is going to open a lot of doors,” Minter said. “They’d love to have events at their airport to attract the community.”