Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), whose sponsorship of Pilot’s Bill of Rights legislation helped level the playing field for pilots in dealings with the FAA, and whose efforts enabled third class medical reform, has introduced another bill to broaden protections for general aviation pilots.
The new measure sponsored by Inhofe, an 11,000-hour pilot and certificated flight instructor, titled the Fairness for Pilots Act, builds on past gains with provisions for fairer treatment of pilots in FAA investigations, and would require expedited FAA efforts to improve the flight information it provides. Similar provisions were passed three times by the Senate in 2016, but they did not make it to the president’s desk.
According to a summary released by Inhofe’s office, the bill would ensure that aviators have the right “to appeal an FAA decision through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court.”
For pilots facing an FAA investigation or enforcement, the bill would increase transparency with a requirement that the FAA “articulate the specific activity under investigation” and provide specific documentation.
Provisions intended to make available to pilots the information most important before a flight would expedite updates to the Notice to Airmen (notam) Improvement Program—mandated in the original 2012 Pilot’s Bill of Rights.
Inhofe’s bill directs the FAA to include the effective duration of temporary flight restrictions in notams. The FAA would be required to “certify the accuracy of posted notams,” according to the summary.
Ensured access to flight data—air traffic communication recordings, radar information from contract towers, flight service stations, and controller training programs were specifically included—would allow pilots to better defend themselves in enforcement actions.
General aviation organizations welcomed Inhofe’s bill.
“Today, more than ever, it's essential to recognize and preserve the rights of individuals who seek to pursue the freedom of flight. This legislation is an excellent step in that direction,” said Jack Pelton, chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“The reforms contained in the bill will promote fairness, while reducing costs and helping preserve and foster general aviation in America,” said Ed Bolen, president of the National Business Aviation Association.
Inhofe is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to which the bill was referred on March 29.