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Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 gains support

Bill contains more than medical reform

Support continues to grow for the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, which would reform the third class medical process and provide a wide range of protections for pilots. As of March 19, AOPA members had sent 32,434 letters asking their members of Congress to co-sponsor the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2, and 16 senators and 30 members of the House had signed on as co-sponsors.

While the provisions of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 that deal with third class medical reform have received the most attention in the general aviation community, the legislation also includes numerous other protections for pilots, particularly those involved in FAA investigations or enforcement actions.

One portion of the legislation expands on the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights that was signed into law in 2012, extending the protections contained in the original bill to all FAA certificate holders.

The new legislation also clarifies that pilots who are facing an FAA enforcement or certificate action can choose to appeal directly either to a U.S. district court or to the National Transportation Safety Board for a trial or a full hearing. While retaining the ability for the matter to be heard by NTSB administrative law judges, this gives pilots the opportunity to have their case heard, instead, in a court of law by a neutral third party and holds the FAA to a strict standard of proof.

To ensure that certificate holders are given a fair chance to respond to a notification of an FAA investigation, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would require the FAA to provide a specific description of the incident being investigated, making it easier for the certificate holder to understand the nature of the issues under consideration and respond appropriately.

Of course, a certificate holder can only respond to the FAA’s concerns if he or she knows what they are. Under the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2, if the FAA fails to provide timely notification that it is initiating an investigation, the agency cannot move forward with any administrative or enforcement action or retain any records related to the case.

To prevent placing undue burdens on certificate holders and to guard against an investigation from being used as a platform to freely intrude into unrelated areas, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would only allow the FAA to demand documents from the certificate holder that relate to the issues identified in its notification of investigation.

The FAA also would be prohibited from publicizing any pending enforcement actions. If no enforcement action is taken, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would prohibit the FAA from retaining investigative records for more than 90 days.

If the FAA does take an enforcement action or issue an emergency order, it would be required to provide the certificate holder with a copy of the releasable portion of the Enforcement Investigative Report (EIR).

To improve the efficiency of the FAA enforcement process and help assure greater fairness for pilots, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 also would give FAA lawyers more flexibility to resolve cases administratively through actions such as warning letters or letters of correction.

The Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 takes further steps to protect certificate holders by prohibiting the FAA from requiring pilots to submit to re-examination of their pilot certificate unless there is clear evidence of unsafe behavior on the part of the pilot or the pilot has obtained his or her certificate through fraudulent means. If the FAA does require re-examination of a pilot, the agency would be required to first give the airman a detailed explanation of the reason, and if the FAA takes action against the airman’s certificate as a result of the re-examination, the airman would, in turn, have the right to appeal.

The Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 also includes provisions to expedite improvements to the notam system. Under the legislation, notams must be maintained in a public repository that is Internet accessible, machine readable, and searchable. Temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) also will have to be included in the repository. Additionally, the FAA must establish a rating system that prioritizes the notam according to timeliness and importance. If the FAA doesn’t meet the legislation’s timeline for making the updates or if a notam is not included in the repository, the FAA won’t be allowed to take enforcement actions based on a notam violation.

To ensure that pilots have access to critical records pertaining to an investigation or enforcement action, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would make the flight data records maintained by contract towers, flight service stations, and other FAA contractors subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

To protect aviation medical and pilot examiners, airworthiness representatives, and other FAA designees, the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 would protect against any civil liability for those designees who are acting with reasonable care in the performance of their FAA designated duties.

Pilots who fly for public benefit by providing volunteer services in an emergency or who fly for humanitarian or charitable purposes for nonprofit organizations also would receive protection from civil liability.

Elizabeth Tennyson
Elizabeth A Tennyson
Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, Capitol Hill, GA Caucuses

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