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Private airstrips and third party liability

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Private airstrips and third party liability

Old 2nd Apr 2015, 08:38
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Private airstrips and third party liability

Are there any insurance experts here?

Third party liability cover at private airstrips is a reasonably straight forward subject in terms of value of cover held, and what it's for.

However, I have two airstrips that are both 'covered' in the event of an incident, but I'm not entirely sure how the cover works in terms of how far I am expected to go to manage the risks that I am insured for. For example, one of my strips has footpaths at either end, and walkers sometimes (not often, but sometimes) make out they're lost and walk between the two. This route takes them right past the hangar, and across the taxyway.

I'm reasonably sociable, and hate to give people the cold shoulder when they show an interest in the aircraft (especially if they have kids who are keen to have a look), but I do always remind them that they have strayed off the footpath and are on private land. They are normally apologetic and move on after we have chatted for a few minutes. The trouble is, a few hundred yards away is a Warner hotel, and each weekend brings a fresh batch of geographically clueless ramblers.

So, my question is, would I be expected (by my insurance company) to be doing more to restrict access to the site? Should I have fences/signs up making it clear that the land is private and they must not leave the footpath? If there was an incident involving a strayed footpath walker where does that leave me and my insurance? Yes, I am covered, but will Mr Clipboard wriggle out of a claim because I didn't have everything covered in day-glo yellow tabard material?

Ok, so I haven't minced anyone up in 25 years of flying from there, but people seem less and less prepared to stick to the rights of way, and seem to feel they can pretty much walk where they like these days. Yes, I could plaster the area with signs, but I don't really want to draw people's attention to the fact that there is a hangar nearby, especially with the recent events involving stolen engines etc.

Interested to hear the views of other airstrip operators.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 10:17
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Our strip is in the middle of private farmland, fairly distant from any public roads. It is unsecured/unfenced.

We take a relaxed attitude to the dog walkers, horseriders, pony and trap riders etc from the local village, but we do move in on any kite flyers, kiteboarders who appear and point to two 6 x 4 ft red and white signs that say 'Private: Active Airstrip. Keep Off.

That does it for my duty of care to trespassers.

We do of course have third party insurance as well.

Cusco
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 10:23
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Which part of the world and how is the airstrip registered with aviation authorities? Countries and duties are VERY different and while you might have to put 7" steel fences with self-shooting surveillance at one place, you get along with common sense on others. If it comes to insurance issues, what about talking to your insurance representative, as all we say means nothing with respect to accountability for truth.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 10:31
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I really do hope you don't think there's a black and white answer to this.

To answer fluffily, you should take (and be able to show that you have taken) all reasonable precautions to divest yourself of the duty of care you have towards third parties.

If you think that, due to the proximity of e.g. the hotel, there is a higher than average number of clueless ramblers around, than it may unfortunately become incumbent on you to take higher than usual precautions to ensure that said clueless ramblers do not cause any issues.

(By airing your concerns on the forum you appear to already acknowledge that there is a potential issue, so you cannot plead ignorance.)

As an aside, often a good way to show that you have taken (some steps towards) reasonable precautions is to have complied with the relevant regulations in force. As I guess that these are unlicensed, those may not be applicable - but you could probably do worse than to have a look at those regulations - even if they are not applicable to you - and adapt those which appear to make sense and which, in hindsight, you might have been expected to put into force.

Realistically, what may be a good way forward is to discuss with your insurer. The underwriter dealing with your policy is hardly ever the same guy dealing with a potential claim - his job is to get the business in and he will normally be accommodating to get the business in. Discuss it with him (through your broker, if you want) and try to get something in an email ... Of course, by bringing it up, you must also be prepared to actually do something if he suggests something.

Disclaimer - I have links to GA insurance but we do not specifically do strip TPL ... Drop me a PM if you want me to have a chat over a coffee with someone directly involved.

B.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 10:45
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Signs on the footpaths at either side of the strip showing the direction and stating that it is essential for your safety to keep to the path may be sufficient. An aircraft hazard sign might be a bonus! Ask the guys at Visicover for a gospel answer, they use a major insurance company to provide their underwriting and they are very friendly and helpful.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 12:06
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Monocock you say that the footpaths are at either end of the Runway, do they actually pass over the runway area or just before the threshold area...
Could you 'encase' the footpath by two frangiable fences, such as a stock electric fence (powered up if you prefer!).
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 14:01
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Mono

I'm sure that you know better than I do that a few sheep on a piece of land make a big difference to (dog) walker behaviour. Of course you do have to avoid them when taking off or landing!
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 15:13
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Mono,

I think you need to risk assess your airfields. You can download suitable RAs online. Basically you are listing all the likely scenarios that could occur and then assess on a scale of 1 to 5 how likely that hazard is and then what are the effects, consequences of that hazard. At work we use a matrix which is quite useful, you can get them off the web.

Its really stating the bleeding obvious but a risk such as someone walking across the airfield is highly likely and the consequences could be fatal. Then you assess how likely is it that a fatality could occur. Whatever the answer is then you have to do something about it by mitigating that risk by whatever method is appropriate which I suspect is a fence and signs. That is obviously at a cost to you. But your risk assessment could state that the number of airfield intrusions is very low as is the number of flights so fencing off the footpath is disproportionate and signage is a suitable response. Also handing out leaflets to the hotel might be a reasonable response since you are being proactive and trying to reduce the likelihood of someone or more likely their dog being damaged. On the other hand it could attract more folk to the airfield.

If there was an accident then you would be able to prove, by your RA, that you have considered the likely hazards and assessed a suitable mitigation. At work if we have an incident then this is the first thing that our managers ask us to provide and if we haven't done one then all hell breaks loose.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 15:27
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Firstly all the talk about it being an airfield is wrong, it is private land. Personally I wouldnt even describe it as an airstrip but actually its a field you happen to use for your aircraft, you can use your own land for any activity 28 days of the year without planning consent, bear in mind that is days per year if you happen to 20 flights per day that is within the planning law.
The people who stray off the public footpath are trespassing on private land therefore actually don't have to many rights if the land is signed posted as private land. Wether they get run over by a tractor or an aeroplane is actually their fault because they are trespassing.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 16:02
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Originally Posted by fastjet45 View Post
.............. is actually their fault because they are trespassing.
Oh that English law was so simple. There have been many cases where trespassers/visitors have successfully sued when injured. And land owners have been found guilty in the criminal courts where trespassers have been injured. In particular, children cannot be expected to read and understand signs in the same way as adults.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 17:16
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Hmm, fastjet, I wish it were that simple!! People trespassing are still my responsibility from a liability perspective, sadly!

Thanks for all the comments. I've given this some more thought and read a few PM's about it, and have decided that the best option (and without drawing attention to the fact that it's an airstrip) is to put up some signs asking the users of the right of way to make sure they are completely clear about the proper route of the path ahead of them and not to stray from it.

Not long ago I came to land and there was a family (with dog) wandering up the middle of it. My pass overhead (and then back, and back again....) didn't seem to make them twig, and they gleefully waved up to me. They then carried on ambling along the middle of the strip, casually picking mushrooms and throwing sticks for the dog.

When I finally landed, they stood there with big f***tard grins waving away without any idea whatsoever about the fact they'd made me fly around for 10 minutes while they enjoyed letting their dog crap on my strip.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 18:06
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The trouble is, a few hundred yards away is a Warner hotel, and each weekend brings a fresh batch of geographically clueless ramblers.
Have you tried contacting the Hotel and asking if they could put something in their ' information to guests folder' or whatever they have, and maybe put a notice in the hotel foyer, at least it shows you have made the effort.
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Old 2nd Apr 2015, 21:59
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A [email protected] , laminated "plan" of the field, showing "you are here" Public footpath is A STRAIGHT LINE between red and white striped posts at this end . alternative path at other end is A STRAIGHT LINE between the yellow /black striped posts.
YOU MUST NOT CROSS ANY PART OF THE FIELD BETWEEN THE 2 PATHS
Get some made for the red and white posts, ditto for the black/yellow (your colour choice may differ) fix to exterior grade ply screwed to the posts you could make the ply oversize and put hazard tape (cheap from Screwfix) round the borders.
A3 prints would be a good size, not too dear and a decent stationery outlet should be able to do them at a reasonable cost. Carry an aerosol-type foghorn (boat chandlers,maybe builder's merchants?) in the aeroplane. first pass, blast the feckers, next pass land whilst blasting them again.

I must admit the live fence-tape between the demarcation -posts ,has a great appeal !
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 04:53
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Firstly all the talk about it being an airfield is wrong, it is private land.
Actually, it is an AERODROME.

Definition of 'Aerodrome' in Annex 14 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944):

A defined area on land or water (including any buildings, installations, and equipment) intended to be used either wholly or in part for the arrival, departure and surface movement of aircraft.

Definition of 'Aerodrome' at section 105 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982:

Means any area of land or water designed, equipped, set apart or commonly used for affording facilities for the landing and departure of aircraft and includes any area or space, whether on the ground, on the roof of a building or elsewhere, which is designed, equipped or set apart for affording facilities for the landing and departure of aircraft capable of descending or climbing vertically.
TOO
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 06:17
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Originally Posted by Monocock
Thanks for all the comments. I've given this some more thought and read a few PM's about it, and have decided that the best option (and without drawing attention to the fact that it's an airstrip) is to put up some signs asking the users of the right of way to make sure they are completely clear about the proper route of the path ahead of them and not to stray from it.
Would signs warning the field is used for clay pigeon shooting help people think twice about crossing it without drawing attention to the fact that it's an airstrip?
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 09:04
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When I finally landed, they stood there with big f***tard grins waving away without any idea whatsoever about the fact they'd made me fly around for 10 minutes while they enjoyed letting their dog crap on my strip.
Hope you gave the morons a massive rollicking.
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 10:11
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Is there any reason not to ask your insurers? After all, if their assessment is that you need to do X,Y,Z and you comply, I don't see how they can deem you negligent should an accident occur.
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Old 3rd Apr 2015, 11:39
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I have asked them, and was advised that 'as long as I had taken reasonable steps' then that's fine. No further commitment was forthcoming.

Reasonable steps for one loss adjuster might be less adequate for another.
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