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Bill protects airport owners from landowner liability

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OKLAHOMA CITY– A bill that was signed last month has been amended to help protect landowners who try to make their land available to the public.

Last month, Gov. Fallin signed House Bill 1009, which amends landowner liability statutes for non-public-use airports.

“Landowners who make land available to the public for outdoor recreational purposes are accorded limited liability under current statute,” said Rep. Mike Brown. “The purpose of limiting landowner liability is to encourage landowners to make land available to the public for these activities.  House Bill 1009 extends this limited liability to landowners who offer their land as an aviation site for fly-ins at non-public-use airports.”

Oklahoma is now the 20th state to amend the recreational use statute to include aviation activities.

Officials say amending the statute does not change the “restricted” or “private” status of the airfield.

Pilots are required to still ask for permission to ask private airfield owners to use their airstrips.

Currently , there are 393 registered airports in Oklahoma.

However, 254 of those are “private-owned, private use.”

Experts say that’s because of the possibility of being held liable for a pilot’s negligent activity at the airfield.

“HB1009 was filed in response to a constituent request,” said Brown. “After hosting many fly-ins at his home, this constituent was going to have to close his farm airstrip because of potential lawsuits. I attempted to get this legislation passed last year, but during the last days of session many bills fell by the wayside and didn’t make it to the governor’s desk. However, this year was different.”

“HB1009 makes it possible for airfield owners to open their facilities to public use without fear of being held liable for incidents occurring on the airfield. This will make private landowners more open to allowing public access to their airstrips,” added Rep. Brown.

The bill also provides that donations made at fly-ins at these non-public-use airports do not constitute a charge for using the land and will not exclude the landowner from limited liability.

The bill will become effective November 1, 2013.