WASHINGTON, D.C. – 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, today hailed the Senate’s unanimous passage of his bill, the Pilots’ Bill of Rights (S.1335). Inhofe has worked to pass the legislation for the past year. His bill has 65 co-sponsors, including U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).
For the past few weeks, Inhofe has worked with Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, to reach a unanimous agreement on the legislation.
“This is a big victory for general aviation pilots all across the country,” said Inhofe. “Last year, I introduced this bill and presented it to the general aviation community at OSHKOSH. Thanks to the efforts of so many pilots, and organizations like AOPA and EAA, we were able to get this important bill passed. Over the course of my years in Congress, I have helped an untold number of pilots facing the pressure of dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This bill remedies many of the most serious deficiencies in the relationship between general aviation and the FAA, and ensures that pilots are, like everyone else, treated in a fair and equitable manner by the justice system.
“Senate passage of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights has taken the effort of a many of my colleagues in the Senate, some of whom I didn’t initially agree with. In particular I want to thank Senator Begich for joining me from the very beginning, Senators Hutchison and Rockefeller for being so willing to work through some of the more complicated aspects of the legislation, and of course Senator Reid, who reached across the aisle and has shown real leadership during this effort.”
Begich said, “Flying is a way of life in Alaska. With six times more pilots per capita than the rest of the country, it’s important to make sure pilots are treated fairly in their dealings with the FAA. I praise Senator Inhofe for his dedicated efforts to pass this legislation.”
Rod Hightower, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) President/CEO said, “This is a very important win for GA and protecting aviators’ rights. We especially appreciate the bipartisan support in the Senate for the measure and Sen. Inhofe’s dedicated efforts to move this bill forward.”
Craig Fuller, Aircraft Owners Pilots Association (AOPA) President said, “A year ago, Sen. Inhofe made a bold decision to introduce legislation in support of pilots' rights when general aviation seemed to be under attack in Washington, D.C. His willingness to take a stand on behalf of pilots, and his success in bringing this measure through the Senate at a time when so much legislation is at a standstill, are powerful testaments to his commitment to protecting the freedom to fly. We applaud Sen. Inhofe's ongoing work on behalf of general aviation so it can continue to play an important role in fostering economic development, providing personal and business transportation, and delivering services to millions of Americans.”
DETAILS ABOUT THE PILOTS BILL OF RIGHTS
Makes FAA Enforcement Proceedings and NTSB Review Fair for Pilots
· Requires NTSB review of FAA enforcement actions to conform, to the extent practicable, with the Federal Rules of Evidence and Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
· Requires the FAA to provide timely notice to a pilot who is the subject of an investigation, and that any response by the pilot can be used as evidence against him.
· Requires that in an FAA enforcement action against a pilot, the FAA must grant the pilot all relevant evidence 30 days prior to a decision to proceed with an enforcement action. This is currently not done and often leaves the pilot grossly uninformed of his violation and recourse.
· Makes contractor-run flight service station and contract tower communications available to airmen. Currently, if a request is made for flight service station information under FOIA, it is denied to the requestor because the contractor is not the government, per se. However, the contractor is performing an inherently governmental function and this information should be available to pilots who need it to defend themselves in an enforcement proceeding.
· Removes the special statutory deference as it relates to National Transportation Safety Board reviews of FAA actions. Too often the NTSB rubber stamps a decision of the FAA, giving wide latitude to the FAA and making the appeals process meaningless. This returns NTSB’s deference to the FAA to general administrative law principles, just like every other government agency.
· Allows for Federal district court review of appeals from the NTSB, at the election of the appellant. This is important because a review by the Federal district court is de novo, meaning the pilot gets a new trial with the ability to introduce evidence and a new review of the facts.
NOTAM Improvement Program
· Requires that the FAA undertake a NOTAM Improvement Program, requiring simplification and archival of NOTAMs in a central location. The process by which Notices to Airmen are provided by the FAA has long needed revision. This will ensure that the most relevant information reaches the pilot. Currently, FAA makes pilots responsible for knowledge of pre-flight conditions. Non-profit general aviation groups will make up an advisory panel.
Medical Certification Review
· The FAA’s medical certification process has long been known to present a multitude of problems for pilots seeking an airman certificate. The bill requires a GAO review of the FAA’s medical certification process and forms, with the goal of demonstrating how the FAA can provide greater clarity in the questions and reduce the instances of misinterpretation that have, in the past, lead to allegations of intentional falsification against pilots. Non-profit general aviation groups will make up an advisory panel, which will give advice to the FAA on how the medical certification process can be improved. The FAA is required to take appropriate action on the GAO recommendations within one year.