WASHINGTON, D.C. – Citing a need to enhance our nation’s aviation system, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and certified flight instructor with more than 10,000 flight hours, joined his colleagues to pass S. 223, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, with a vote of 87-8. This legislation allows the FAA authority to more readily implement the Next General Air Transportation System and contains three amendments offered by Inhofe.
“This long overdue legislation will enhance our nation’s aviation system, ensuring America’s predominate role in aviation throughout the world,” said Inhofe. “Under this legislation, the FAA will have the authority to readily implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System. This new measure will revolutionize the way air traffic is controlled, and help the consumer as air travel will become more efficient and cost-effective.”
Of the three amendments Inhofe proposed, two were accepted and the third was modified and included. Inhofe’s amendments call for providing liability protection to volunteer pilots, taking away the FAA’s ability to regulate model airplanes, and separate rules for supplemental air carriers.
Volunteer Pilot Organization Protection Amendment
S. Amdt. 50, provides liability protection for non-profit, charitable Volunteer Pilot Organizations that provide free transportation to people in need of specialized medical treatment in distant lands due to family, community or national crises.
President of Mercy Medical Airlift Edward Boyer supported this measure and said, “Providing an important incentive for pilot volunteerism is very American and will assist huge numbers of medically indigent patients reach essential distant specialized medical care.”
Chairman of Angel Flight Mid-Atlantic also voiced his support and said, “This will enable hundreds of volunteer pilot to continue to serve the American public and help volunteer pilot organizations recruit more pilots to assist in this important public service task.”
Model Airplanes Regulation Amendment
The U.S. Senate adopted S. Amdt. 86 by unanimous consent. This amendment denies the FAA the ability to regulate model airplanes.
President of Academy of Model Aeronautics Dave Mathewson voiced his support and said, “On behalf of our 140,000 members I want to thank Senator Inhofe for helping to preserve model aviation. Aeromodeling is an exceptional family recreational and educational activity that has traditionally been a stepping stone for our children to careers in aviation and aerospace. With the Senator’s help we hope model aviation will continue to help provide that impetus for future generations of engineers, pilots, and astronauts.”
Volunteer Pilot Organizations Protection Amendment
S. Amdt. 7 separates supplemental air carriers from current FAA rulemaking. A proposed FAA regulation regarding crew rest and duty time was written specifically for scheduled airlines, but will negatively affect supplemental carriers (non-scheduled, charter airlines). Currently, the Department of Defense relies on supplemental carriers to fly 95% of its personnel and 40% of its cargo in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Inhofe ultimately modified his amendment with legislation that allowed one of the most controversial elements of the bill to receive a vote, thus allowing the bill to proceed, but not until he secured a commitment from the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), to work with Inhofe to ensure a fair rulemaking proceeding for supplemental carriers.
President of the National Air Carrier Association supported Inhofe’s amendment and said, “We want to offer our sincere thanks for Senator Inhofe’s tireless work on behalf of all supplemental carriers during the deliberations surrounding the FAA Reauthorization bill. Your advocacy to insure this segment of the industry receives a fair hearing and full consideration of the FAA was reasoned and well conducted.”