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PA Law Limiting Liability for Private Airports Set to Go Live

August 18, 2011 – About two weeks before AirVenture Oshkosh 2011, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law legislation that provides owners of private recreational airstrips in the state the same reduced liability protections as several other recreational activities. Effective September 5, 2011, recreational noncommercial aircraft and ultralight operations on private airstrips will be included under the Recreational Use of Land and Water Act, putting recreation aviation in private facilities on par with such activities as hunting, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, cave exploring, and other activities. The unanimous (50-0) vote in the legislature changed a law that stood since the 1960s.

Thanks go out to George Jenkins, EAA 537875, who spent more than two years advocating on behalf of House Bill 870. Jenkins owns two facilities, including Merritt Field (4PN7), located at Eagles Mere Air Museum in Sullivan County.

“Aviation had not been a part of that legislation, but one may have interpreted that private airports were covered, but they were not explicitly covered,” Jenkins said. “And there are nearly 400 such airports in Pennsylvania that most owners would not allow access to because of potential liability.

“The hope now is that by explicitly covering it as an add-on to existing legislation, it becomes clear that an owner’s liability would be restricted.”
And that, Jenkins said, should increase utility of the facilities and create a positive economic impact.

He thanks State Representative Tina Pickett of the 110th Legislative District for putting together the constituency to make the add-on legislation possible.

“EAA is always seeking ways to reduce the burden on, and make aviation more accessible to, pilots who fly recreationally,” said Randy Hansen, EAA government relations director. “George’s two-year effort is an excellent example of how a grassroots movement of constructive engagement with legislative officials can be highly successful.”

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