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Advice re establishing farm strip.

A couple of friends and I have identified an old farm strip on some land in the South West. We are thinking of buying it and establishing a mini "flying community". The strip can be improved to a nice, dry 500 length, and the land has a farm house and some other barns and so on that we will resurrect as cottages. The idea is that I will buy the whole kit and caboodle and sell two small pieces to my friends who will convert their buildings to residences. I will grant the other two rights to use the strip and provide hangar space.

I am up to speed on the farm strip legislation and restrictions, and we are fine with all that. But now I am of course trying to think through the liability issues. As the potential owner of the greater part of the land, including the strip itself and the hangar to be, should I be concerned about liability? If there was an accident on the strip involving one of the others can I end up having liability? How can I protect myself? What sort of agreement should I put in place between us? One flyer friend has suggested I create an association, and lease the strip to the association, and then have a series of rules and agreements regarding liability written into the rules (ie each is entirely responsible for their own actions, cant sue others etc) The strip would of course be PPR to outsiders, but should we allow them at all?

I imagine these types of issues must have been dealt with by lots of others who have farm strips, and would really appreciate any advice or ideas.

Many thanks

Upper Harford, United Kingdom

Very tricky area. If a third party dies in an accident at your strip, nothing in your rules affects their estate's ability to sue you.

EGTK Oxford

Very tricky indeed. I'm certainly no legal expert, but I am cautious about this. My home owner's insurance specifically excludes anything to do with my runway. I have dramatically cut back on inviting people to land here. I have no means to make public a PPR, so I just leave it instated. If someone lands, they did so without my permission. I hope that will to some degree put some onus on them, and off me. My greater fear is not the pilot, but the potential for an injured passenger to sue the runway owner. The pilot might have signed a waiver, but that passenger, and their family did not!

That said, I maintain my runway in good condition, and what you see is what you get, (no gopher holes). I've had two pilots crash on my runway, with one write off, though his injuries were very minor. There has never been a suggestion that I, or the runway was at fault, and I did not claim upon them for damage (it takes years for grass to grow over spilled avgas!).

Though I am a lover of aviation, I suggest you look at this from the risk vs benefit point of view. You risk a lot offering up a runway for others use, what's in it for you? Does the equation balance?

The other thing I found is that everyone wants to use your runway, and keep their plane there, but no one wants to do any work. If they all pay, and you do the work, and you're happy with that, that's fine, but it's still a lot of work. At the previous place I kept my plane, I kept it there for free, but I did all the work. So, I figured that if I'm doing all the work anyway, I may as well own it, so I bought - not for them, just for me.

Having your own runway is wonderful. I suggest that you make the business case for yourself, without depending upon anyone else. Then you control things, and no one has the right to complain - or sue!

Home runway, in central Ontario, Canada

If the strip is maintained well and you have suitable third party insurance cover (including a comprehensive risk management plan and airfield rules) then you have done all you can to mitigate risk. As with anything in life, it's impossible to remove all risk. However, should the worst happen, and one of them was injured, the professionalism of the whole set-up would almost certainly be assessed and how you came out of it would largely be decided upon by that.

Good luck with the grass cutting!!!

Private Strip

Out of interest, has anybody got serious legal advice on this?

I am not a lawyer but I do know that there are many areas where "pub lawyers" will tell you that you can be liable but in fact you are not.

For example, several years ago, a friend was living in a house surrounded by a large garden, containing large trees. The whole lot had a wall around it, and there was a road outside. There was a pub and a lot of people were parking on that road.

One day, one of the big trees fell over and squashed one of the cars parked there.

My friend was NOT liable.

Had her trees been falling over regularly and squashing cars, and she had done nothing about it, she might have been.

She was not liable because she did not control the trees and had no way to stop a tree from falling over, and trees do fall over

This might suprise some people (especially the yellow jacket pushers) but not everything in life carries a strict liability.

I also suspect that a huge chunk of the "duty of care" stuff which has come to dominate so much in our lives is actually bogus, with no legal basis and/or no case law.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

This might suprise some people (especially the yellow jacket pushers) but not everything in life carries a strict liability.

Although America has brought to us the nice of concept of extreme legal costs to establish that one is not liable/guilty. Expensive and creative lawyers manage to blow up cases so that judges are at loss as to who is liable/guilty and try everything to make the parties settle.

At least here, there is a legal concept that car traffic and aviation are generally dangerous activities and when something happens, you're liable. If you hit a pedestrian with your car, you will always be liable no matter what, maybe unless that guy left a suicide note...

There are good reasons why insurance companies like to exclude aviation so I can understand Pilot DAR...

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