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.                                                                                                               

“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 with unrelated language. Inhofe’s amendments call for providing liability protection to volunteer pilots, taking away the FAA’s ability to regulate model airplanes, and a separate rulemaking for supplemental air carriers.

Volunteer Pilot Protection Amendment

S. Amdt. 50 provides liability protection for volunteer pilots who provide free transportation to people in need of specialized medical treatment due to family, community or national crises. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. 

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 Steve Craven 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 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.”

District VII Vice President and National Safety Committee Chair of the Academy of Model Aeronautics Jim Rice said, “I truly appreciate Senator Inhofe and his fellow senators’ support of model aircraft enthusiasts around the country. As a modeler of 60+ years, member of the 140,000 member strong Academy of Model Aeronautics board of directors, and National Safety Committee Chair for AMA, I feel that AMA’s proven track record over its 75 years of existence speaks for itself. No further public monies or time should be spent trying to regulate safety into our sport which is already the safest of all aviation activities.”

Supplemental Carrier Amendment 

S. Amdt. 7 attempted to separate supplemental air carriers from the current FAA rulemaking, but the Senate ultimately failed to consider the amendment in its original form. 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. Inhofe modified his amendment, effectively striking the supplemental carrier language, but adding language that allowed one of the more controversial elements of the bill to receive a vote. This procedural move, allowing the bill to proceed, was made once 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 Oakley Brooks 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.”