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Pilot, senator, aviation advocate Inhofe mourned

Jim Inhofe, the former senator from Oklahoma known for his support of aviation, from advocating for airline employees and air traffic controllers to his legislation known as the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, died July 9. He was 89.

Photo by David Tulis.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement that the people Inhofe served included “a group much larger than the proud residents of the Sooner State.” That larger group includes private and commercial pilots, aircraft owners, other workers in the aviation industry, and the industry itself.

AOPA President Mark Baker said, “Senator Jim Inhofe’s contributions to general aviation over the years are significant and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of pilots across the nation, and our gratitude for his tireless efforts cannot be measured.”

Inhofe was a pilot who logged more than 11,000 hours and served in the Senate from 1994 until retiring in 2023. During his career he introduced and supported legislation that helped the general aviation community and commercial aviation. He was involved in the fight for famed airshow performer and test pilot R.A. “Bob” Hoover and other pilots when the FAA revoked their medical certificates without cause. His resulting 1999 legislation, which became known as the Hoover Bill, gives pilots the right to appeal such emergency revocations immediately to the NTSB.

A particularly memorable Inhofe effort involved third class medical reform. He introduced legislation in 2015 that led to the landmark adoption of BasicMed the following year. As a result, more than 80,000 have qualified to fly under the BasicMed rules, which eased the medical certification process for pilots.

Inhofe regularly worked with AOPA on legislation and was a reliable supporter and collaborator. When he announced that he would retire from the Senate in January 2023, AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon said, “A leader, a gentleman, and a pilot best describes Senator Jim Inhofe. General aviation is, in large part, growing and vibrant in the United States today because of the senator’s passion for flying and his years of dedicated public service to help make it so.”

Following his retirement, AOPA honored Inhofe with its 2022 R.A. ”Bob” Hoover Trophy for his work in support of aviation including “important policies and legislation that have benefitted every pilot and aircraft owner flying today.”

AOPA named the conference room in the association’s Washington, D.C., office to honor Inhofe, and a bronze plaque created to commemorate his passion for protecting and promoting GA is proudly displayed there.

Jonathan Welsh
Jonathan Welsh
Digital Media Content Producer
Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot, career journalist and lifelong aviation enthusiast who previously worked as a writer and editor with Flying Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.
Topics: People

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