By Sen. James Inhofe
After the coronavirus kept us apart last year, this year’s EAA AirVenture has a greater significance. As we come together to mark another Oshkosh, I can’t help but reflect on all the general aviation successes we have achieved over the past few years.
It is truly an honor to listen to the needs of pilots across this community and fight for those priorities in Congress, including third class medical reform, the Volunteer Pilot Protection Act, and our continued fight to stop the privatization of air traffic control. It’s amazing what we can accomplish for the general aviation community together.
First, getting more pilots in the air by reforming the third class medical process, also known as BasicMed. We’re now celebrating the five-year anniversary of the passage of this reform, a key provision in my Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 and a huge win for the aviation community (“Just Between You and Me,” July 2021 AOPA Pilot). These reforms cut bureaucratic red tape and have encouraged pilots to disclose and get treatment for medical conditions that may affect their ability to fly. Further, BasicMed has eased the medical certification process for pilots while increasing their knowledge of risk. This legislation has substantially grown the number of active pilots, with nearly 65,000 pilots in the sky using the program today.
What all these great successes have in common is that we discussed each of these issues—both problems and solutions—in Oshkosh.Second, supporting pilots who are helping their communities. The Volunteer Pilot Protection Act was signed into law in 2018. This legislation is a Good Samaritan law for pilots who currently assume financial risk and liability simply by volunteering to transport those in need of medical treatment. This bill broke down a barrier preventing the important charitable efforts by Oklahoma pilots and pilots across the nation, including medical transport for veterans, disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, and other similar charitable missions.
And last, but certainly not least, who can forget when we worked together to fight the privatization of air traffic control? Management of our nation’s airspace is an inherent responsibility of the federal government. Instead of privatizing, I was proud to stand with the general aviation community to urge the need to modernize our nation’s air traffic control facilities and systems. Privatization of our nation’s airspace would effectively take the freedom to fly away from general aviation pilots. The simple truth is privatization would easily lead to conflicts of interest and even possible breaches of national security. Working together, we successfully fought back the effort to privatize ATC.
What all these great successes have in common is that we discussed each of these issues—both problems and solutions—in Oshkosh. As a pilot myself, I know the unique concerns of the aviation community and it has been a privilege to see these accomplishments through to the finish, but there is still much to be done. This year, I look forward to continuing to listen to your thoughts and identifying the next policy victories we will work towards for the aviation community in Congress. When we work together as a team, good things happen.