We can help.
We continue to get excellent questions from landowners of private airfields about liability. We appreciate your interest in the RAF mission to preserve, improve, and create airfields for recreational access. To answer your questions, we provide this RAF 50 State Survey of each state’s Recreational Use Statute (RUS) as a resource for owners of private airfields. All 50 states have recreational use statutes that protect landowners from liability when they allow the public to enter their land for recreational activities. To gain this protection landowners generally cannot charge a fee for use of the land, and there can be no malicious intent to injure someone on the part of the landowner.
John Nadeau of Massachusetts was an early RAF Liaison, and owns an airfield in Maine. He had liability concerns over allowing others to use his airfield. He now volunteers as the RAF’s National RUS Liaison and has spent time over the years to understand, tabulate, and publicize this RAF Survey. In addition, the RAF has published Guide for the Private Airfield Owner, an online resource, also available in print by request from firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our experience is that fear of a lawsuit is the primary reason airfield owners limit public access to their airfields,” Nadeau said. “Landowners are not always informed about the recreational use statute in their state.” Many states imply or specifically include aviation as a recreational purpose, which provides a level of protection for owners of private airstrips. In some states, Nadeau has assisted RAF state liaisons on legislative efforts to include “aviation” in state recreational law.
“I believe that this 50 State Survey may be the most comprehensive and informative review of these statutes that I have found online,” Nadeau said. The RAF urges owners of private airfields to consult this resource, and contact your respective state liaison with questions.
Submitted on October 11, 2022.