MADISON, WIS. – The Wisconsin Senate approved a measure November 12, 2013 that will provide liability protection for owners of private airports, which are used for recreational purposes. Senate Bill 321 includes “recreational aviation” in Wisconsin’s Recreational-Use Statute (RUS). The current statute provides liability protection for private landowners when the public uses their land for recreational purposes, such as for snowmobiling, skiing, and hiking, but aviation activities are not currently specified.
The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee on October 25, 2013 by a vote of 3-2. It now goes to the Wisconsin Assembly.
The chief sponsor of Senate Bill 321 was Sen. Joseph Leibham (R), who led the legislative effort at the urging of Wisconsin pilot Don Kiel, Recreational Aviation Foundation Wisconsin liaison Charles Aldrian, the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), and some members of the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association (WATA).
All 50 states have a Recreational-Use Statute. The RUS is sometimes called the “Good Guy Law,” which could be summed up by saying that a landowner has no liability if he allows someone to use his land without charge, and doesn’t overtly create a hazard.
In part because of the absence of this protection, some private airport owners have been reluctant to allow other pilots to use their airports, and have requested that the FAA not publish the location of their airports on aeronautical charts. In an emergency, especially, being able to locate a private airport may mean the difference between life and death.
The proposed amendment in Wisconsin is in line with changes to Recreational-Use Statutes in other states throughout the country, and important to the 417 private airport owners in Wisconsin.
If this legislation is passed, Wisconsin will join 16 other states, which have already amended their Recreational-Use Statutes to include recreational aviation including Midwest states Minnesota, South Dakota and parts of Nebraska.
The following link to an article published in Midwest Flyer Magazine details the importance of this legislation: https://www.midwestflyer.com/?p=5066.