Know Your Site Owner's Policies

By Tony Stillman, Flying Site Assistance Coordinator

As I speak with AMA members across the United States, I learn a lot. Many have shared stories about their specific club situation that helps me learn things that can help other clubs. It is amazing how much we can learn and profit from each other if we are willing to listen!

While helping an AMA club, I learned how important it is to be a good steward of the land and support your landowner. The case that I am referring to occurred in 2011. Let me explain …

I had previously worked with a club that contacted me with a question about AMA’s insurance coverage and how it protects the site owner. Specifically the question was about the Flying Site Owner’s Insurance that is available to all AMA clubs for purchase. This insurance is a major reason that many of our clubs are able to obtain flying sites.

This policy provides primary insurance coverage for the site owner in the amount of $2.5 million. The site owner has coverage for any issue that might result from flight operations on his/her property. You can find more information on this in the AMA Club Charter kit, which is available as a PDF in the AMA Documents section of the website at www.modelaircraft.org.

Here is what happened. The club had installed some fencing on its flying site for safety reasons. Although this is a good thing, they did not get prior written approval from the owner to do so. In this case, the site owner was the city and the flying site was on a landfill that had been capped by direction of the EPA.

This cap is a plastic membrane that keeps rainwater from penetrating the soil beneath it. The membrane is protecting environmental pollutants from seeping out and possibly polluting the ground water. In order for it to work, the cap must be protected from any punctures. This cap is approximately 24 inches under the site’s topsoil.

When the city found out about the fencing, it required the club to remove it immediately and inspected the site to determine if the cap was damaged. Luckily, it was not damaged. Now, the problem …

The city contacted the club and now wanted the club to provide pollution insurance so that the city would be protected if the club punctured the cap and caused a leak. The problem is that our AMA insurance does not cover this. After a discussion with our insurance company, it became obvious that no typical policy would cover pollution. The coverage could be purchased, but the cost would be in the $25,000 per year range — minimum.

So, what was a club of 30 members to do? By not taking the terms of their site usage seriously, they may have ended up losing a great flying field.

The bottom line here is to make sure you know your situation with your site owner. Don’t make any changes to the flying field without getting written approval first! It may seem like common sense, but the club I am dealing with did not think they were doing anything that would cause a problem.

In reality, they didn’t puncture the cap, but it brought their actions in question by the site owner. Not a good place to be.

I hope you can take this tough lesson and apply it to your own case. Be a good steward of your flying field and make sure you do everything in such a way to make the site owner feel secure with your club.