Pilot's Bill of Rights reaches milestone

Members encouraged to ask elected officials to support bill

November 18, 2011


A bill for fairer treatment and more access to information during FAA enforcement actions, a reformed appeal process, and advisory boards to help improve the notice to airmen and medical certification systems is gaining momentum on Capitol Hill. Sixty co-sponsors have signed on in support of Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Pilot’s Bill of Rights (S. 1335).

In addition, Inhofe has been working with Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

“The support this bill has received, including a majority of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee, is indicative of the commonsense approach to correcting problems faced by General Aviation pilots. We are seeking to give pilots access to evidence that is being used against them while ending the guilty-until-proven-innocent approach that the FAA has taken, improve the Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) system, and correct problems with the pilot medical certification process,” said Inhofe.

Graves added, “This is a step in the right direction for protecting the rights of pilots. I look forward to working with Senator Inhofe and my colleagues in the House as we move through the legislative process.”

“We still need the Senate to pass this legislation, and we need our members’ help in reaching out to Senators who have not signed onto the bill,” said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs.

Inhofe, who has been a pilot for 50 years, discussed the bill and the impetus for introducing it to AOPA President Craig Fuller in this AOPA Live interview at EAA AirVenture 2011 in Oshkosh, Wis.

Last month during a visit on Capitol Hill with the Senate General Aviation Caucus, actor and general aviation pilot Harrison Ford endorsed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which helped give it some momentum.

The bill would impose new requirements for the FAA to disclose to a pilot, who is targeted in an enforcement action, the reason for the investigation, and to inform the pilot that there would be no penalty for declining to respond. All investigative reports, air traffic control recordings, or other relevant information would be provided to the pilot 30 days before enforcement action could proceed.

Inhofe is also seeking to clarify what he calls the “statutory deference” that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) affords the FAA when reviewing FAA enforcement cases. He criticized evidence that he said statistically demonstrates the NTSB’s rubber stamping of FAA decisions. Addressing that concern, his bill would allow pilots the additional remedy of pursing appeals in federal district court.

Advisory panels created by the legislation would seek a solution for a system requiring pilots to have all notams for a flight while being dependent on a notam system that does not post all notams, and address troubled medical certification processes.