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Use of Aircraft in Search and Rescue Operations

Concerning protection for persons assisting in volunteer helicopter search and rescue operations.
2024 Regular Session
Civil Law
Local Government
Military & Veterans
Natural Resources & Environment
Bill Summary

The act extends immunity from civil liability for damage or injury, other than that which arises from gross negligence or willful misconduct, to an individual, nonprofit organization, for-profit corporation, private organization, or other person (person) that voluntarily operates or arranges for the use of a helicopter, or assists as a helicopter crew member, during backcountry search and rescue operations (search and rescue operations), if the person:

  • Arranges for the use of or operates, or assists as a crew member of, the helicopter on behalf of the governmental entity that is leading the search and rescue operation;
  • Has an agreement with the governmental entity;
  • Is, employs, or otherwise contracts with a pilot that is properly licensed to operate the helicopter;
  • Is not compensated by the governmental entity for assisting in the search and rescue operation, other than reimbursement for actual expenses incurred; and
  • Meets certain safety and training certifications and requirements.

The act also establishes criteria that volunteer helicopter pilots and the helicopters used in search and rescue operations must satisfy in order for the volunteer helicopter owner or operator to qualify for immunity under the act.

The act establishes the airspace deconfliction working group within the department of public safety. The working group consists of representatives from the department of public safety, the department of military and veterans affairs, and county sheriffs' offices. The working group must develop guidelines for airspace deconfliction when there could be multiple aircraft involved in a search and rescue operation.

APPROVED by Governor May 3, 2024

EFFECTIVE May 3, 2024
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as enacted.)


Became Law


Bill Text

The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details