November 17, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On his 77th birthday, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Pilot’s Bill of Rights (S.1335) reached a major milestone in the U.S. Senate gaining its 60th co-sponsor. The number means the measure has reached a filibuster-proof majority of U.S. Senators, and can pass the Senate.
Last month during a visit on Capitol Hill, actor and general aviation pilot Harrison Ford endorsed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights. Inhofe is a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and a certified flight instructor with more than 10,000 flight hours.
“This is quite a birthday present,” said Inhofe. “The support this bill has received, including a majority of the members of the Senate Commerce Committee, is indicative of the common sense approach to correcting problems faced by General Aviation pilots. We are seeking to give pilots access to evidence that is being used against them while ending the guilty-until-proven-innocent approach that the FAA has taken, improve the Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) system, and correct problems with the pilot medical certification process. I look forward to this being taken up and passed in the Senate in the near future.”
Details about the Pilot’s Bill of Rights
Ø 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.
Ø Clarifies statutory deference as it relates to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) 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.
Ø Allows for federal district court review of appeals from the FAA, at the election of the appellant.
Ø Requires the FAA undertake a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Improvement Program, requiring simplification and archival of NOTAMs in a central location. The process by which NOTAMs 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.
Ø Makes flight service station communications available to all airmen. Currently, the FAA contracts with Lockheed Martin to run its flight service stations. If a request is made for flight service station briefings or other flight service information under FOIA, it is denied to the requestor because Lockheed Martin is not the government, per se. However, they are performing an inherently governmental function and this information should be available to pilots who need it to defend themselves in an enforcement proceeding.
Ø 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 review of the FAA’s medical certification process and forms, to 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.
The 59 cosponsors include: U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Thad Cochran (R- Miss.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Mary Landrieu (D - La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Joe Manchin (D- W. Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Benjamin Nelson (D-Neb.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), David Vitter (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).