June 29, 2012
By Alyssa J. Miller
The Senate on June 29 unanimously passed Sen. James Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Pilot’s Bill of Rights that will give aviators more protection when faced with possible FAA enforcement actions, among other assurances.
“This is a big victory for general aviation pilots all across the country,” Inhofe said in a statement released after the vote. “Last year, I introduced this bill and presented it to the general aviation community at OSHKOSH. Thanks to the efforts of so many pilots, and organizations like AOPA and EAA, we were able to get this important bill passed. Over the course of my years in Congress, I have helped an untold number of pilots facing the pressure of dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This bill remedies many of the most serious deficiencies in the relationship between general aviation and the FAA, and ensures that pilots are, like everyone else, treated in a fair and equitable manner by the justice system.”
The bill would require the FAA to inform pilots of the reason they are being subject to an enforcement action and give them access to investigative reports, ATC recordings, and any relevant information for 30 days before the enforcement action could move forward. Also, pilots would be notified that if they chose not to respond to the actions, they will not be punished. Pilots would have the option of appealing a decision in federal district court. Inhofe was key in helping Bob Hoover get back in the air after the FAA’s emergency revocation of his medical certificate. And, Inhofe himself experienced the enforcement action process after landing on a closed runway in Texas in 2010.
Inhofe’s bill goes beyond the enforcement process to also call for an advisory panel to dig into the notam system. Pilots currently wade through pages of notams, or listen to flight service briefers explain them, during the flight planning process. Another advisory board would be created to look into the medical certification process.
“A year ago, Sen. Inhofe made a bold decision to introduce legislation in support of pilots' rights when general aviation seemed to be under attack in Washington, D.C. His willingness to take a stand on behalf of pilots, and his success in bringing this measure through the Senate at a time when so much legislation is at a standstill, are powerful testaments to his commitment to protecting the freedom to fly,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “We applaud Senator Inhofe's ongoing work on behalf of general aviation so it can continue to play an important role in fostering economic development, providing personal and business transportation, and delivering services to millions of Americans.”
Sixty-five senators joined Inhofe by co-sponsoring the bill, sending a clear message that they understood the importance of general aviation and pilots’ rights. An early supporter of the bill, Mark Begich (D-Alaska), said, “Flying is a way of life in Alaska. With six times more pilots per capita than the rest of the country, it’s important to make sure pilots are treated fairly in their dealings with the FAA. I praise Senator Inhofe for his dedicated efforts to pass this legislation.”
Sixty-five senators signaled their support for the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights by co-sponsoring the measure spearheaded by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). If your senators are listed, please contact their offices to thank them for supporting the bill.
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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