Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Aeronautics and Aviation

Airport owner’s liability and recreational land use (Statutes 604A.20‐604A.27)  

In 2012, amendments to Recreational Land Use definitions in statutes broadened the scope to encompass noncommercial aviation activities. The primary aim of this alteration was to mitigate the liability of property owners granting permission for aircraft landings on their premises. It's crucial for pilots to understand that unless the owner is charging for land use, no duty exists for them to maintain the land for safe entry or warn pilots of potential hazards. Owners permitting the use of their land without charge, whether verbally or in writing, are not held liable for any consequences resulting from that use. Prudent pilots are advised to inspect the site, including walking the runway, before attempting a landing.

While these statutes alleviate property owners from direct liability, it's essential for them to acknowledge other potential ramifications in the event of an aircraft accident on their property. Emergency service vehicles are likely to respond, and both the FAA and NTSB may need to secure the site for investigation purposes. Subsequently, damaged aircraft may require removal, potentially causing additional property damage. Moreover, the emotional impact of an accident, especially if injuries or fatalities occur, should not be underestimated. Property owners retain the right to refuse entry without specifying a reason, and they should exercise this right if they believe the pilot or aircraft is incompatible with their runway.

Despite addressing liability concerns, this statute doesn't exempt airport owners from obtaining an appropriate airport license aligned with the permitted uses. If the landing area is unlicensed, usage must cease within 30 days. In the case of a personal-use airport intended solely for the owner's use, any permission granted to others necessitates proper licensing for private or public use, accompanied by adherence to the more stringent safety requirements associated with those licenses.