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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 bill 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 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; and
  • Meets certain safety and training certifications and requirements.

The bill 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 bill.

The bill requires the office of emergency management, the department of military and veterans affairs, and relevant county sheriffs to establish safety, notification, and airspace deconfliction guidelines during search and rescue operations 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.

(Note: Italicized words indicate new material added to the original summary; dashes through words indicate deletions from the original summary.)

(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)


Became Law


Bill Text

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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