Reps. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) have introduced a “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” measure to give aviators more protection and access to information during FAA enforcement actions, urging their colleagues in a letter to co-sponsor its proposed reforms. A similar bill introduced in 2011 by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is pending in the Senate.
Graves, co-chair of the House GA Caucus, and Lipinski, also a member of the caucus, said passage of their bill also would improve relations between general aviation pilots, the FAA, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
“This is a major step toward protecting the rights of pilots,” Graves said. “I think we will see strong bi-partisan support for this measure from the general aviation caucus and the House as a whole. The support from the general aviation community will be key to convincing any wavering representatives or senators.”
“The Pilot’s Bill of Rights is a much-needed step toward improving communications between pilots and the FAA and ensuring that vital safety-related information reaches those who need it most,” said Lipinski. “It is important that Congress passes it.”
Provisions of the measure that address FAA enforcement would require the agency to notify a pilot targeted by an investigation, provide the pilot with “their options for moving forward,” and disclose information relevant to the case, they said.
A notam improvement program would be initiated. It would require the FAA to collaborate with GA “to effectively clean up the system and make sure relevant information is easily searchable,” said the letter.
In a provision aimed at better access to information for pilots facing potential FAA enforcement action, flight service briefings “and other air traffic services performed by any government contractor” would become available to pilots via a request filed under the Freedom of Information Act. That would ease access that is now only possible by subpoena.
As with the Senate proposal—now with 60 co-sponsors—the House bill calls for review of the FAA’s medical certification process and forms, “with the goal of providing greater clarity to reduce the instances of misinterpretation.” The current form’s ambiguity can lead to “allegations of intentional falsification and ultimately, denial of a pilot’s medical certification,” the representatives wrote.
“We greatly appreciate the leadership that Congressman Graves and Congressman Lipinski have shown by introducing this important bill to protect the rights of our members and all pilots around the country,” 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 with AOPA President Craig Fuller in this AOPA Live video at EAA AirVenture 2011 in Oshkosh, Wis.
When Inhofe introduced his Senate bill, Graves also expressed the intent to bring legislation in the House, calling the joint action “a step in the right direction” for protecting the rights of pilots.