For Landowners

Let's talk about liability!

Are you interested in allowing the public to use your airfield but concerned about the risk of liability? There are multiple resources available to help landowners learn about this topic.

Recreational Use Statute Status

All 50 states in the USA have Recreational Use Statutes (RUS) that can 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. The RUS also doesn’t apply to cases of gross negligence or if a user is considered an invitee. The purpose of these statutes is to keep private, and sometimes public, lands open to the public for recreation.

State RUSs differ on the types of land protected, the types of activities protected, commerce restrictions, and other details. The intent of all RUSs, however, is the same: to promote public recreational use of privately owned lands by offering land owners a level of protection from liability for personal injuries or property damage.

The RAF considers aviation a legitimate form of outdoor recreation. So too, does the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. More than half of the state RUSs expressly indicate that aviation operations are a form of recreational activity. The RAF works hard to have aviation included as a recreational activity in states where it either isn't included or where the law is ambiguous. To view information on individual state RUSs, click here.

For more information on RUSs, please visit our website , or contact John Nadeau, National RUS Liaison, at

Recreational Use Statute Status

Update 13 Jan, 2016

RAF Guide for the Private Airfield Owner

Driven by our State Liaisons’ requests for more information about private airfields, the RAF has compiled a Guide for the Private Airfield Owner, which has gained the endorsement of AOPA. The Guide states that private airfields are invaluable, especially as pressure increases on public lands to restrict aviation access to many of our nation’s special places. The RAF recognizes private airfields as a resource to tap for increasing aviation access to recreation.

The Guide includes discussion of the FAA charting process and legal, liability, and legacy concerns. The RAF has long been the “go-to” group for answers regarding recreational aviation on public lands. “We expect that we may now be seen as the ‘go-to’ organization regarding private airfield support,” Nadeau said, adding, “It will be RAF folks who show up at an airfield with rakes, shovels, and pulaskis when word goes out that an airfield owner needs help.”

Click here to view the RAF Guide for the Private Airfield Owner, or email to request a printed copy.