Somebody Listened To Us! Senator Inhofe To Introduce A 'Pilot's Bill Of Rights' | Aero-News Network
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Wed, Jul 06, 2011

Somebody Listened To Us! Senator Inhofe To Introduce A 'Pilot's Bill Of Rights'

Bill Would Codify Procedures For Pilots To Respond To Allegations

Aero-Note: I've been advocating for this since 1988... when I first published an early attempt at a Pilot's Bill of Rights (last updated in 2009). Through the years, we've gotten a tremendous amount of support, but little action, from the powers-that-be in Washington... until one Senator found out just how un-American and unfair the FAA's concept of justice truly is--for himself... and then things changed. Jim Inhofe was one of the heroes I wrote about in my 1999 book about the long sordid FAA v Bob Hoover affair ('Air of Injustice') and now he's proven to be as big a friend to aviation as he was, then, to Robert A "Bob" Hoover. I sincerely hope this effort passes muster in Congress and that this important modification in how the FAA deals with Airmen the world over is part of the Transformative Change that aviation desperately needs to stay alive now and through the coming challenges. -- Jim Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief, Aero-Activist


Tuesday afternoon on the Senate Floor, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and Certified Flight Instructor with more than 10,000 flight hours, previewed his new Pilots Bill of Rights.  The bill, an important measure for those interested in the General Aviation Community, will be introduced on Wednesday July 6, 2011. 

There are two provisions in the bill that require the FAA to review current practices, and two other provisions that make the system specifically more fair for pilots.

"With any bureaucracy that has the power to take action against an individual it's our job in Congress to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent agency overreach," Inhofe said in previewing his bill.

Inhofe said that the bill does four things.

In the case there is enforcement action, the FAA must grant to the pilot all of the relevant evidence, such as the air traffic communications tapes, flight data, investigative reports, Flight Service Station communications, other relevant air traffic data, 30 days before any action can actually be taken. "That is just a matter of fairness," Inhofe said. "If a person is going to be accused of something, he has to know what he is being accused of."

The FAA would also be required to advise a pilot who is the subject of an investigation relating to approval, denial, suspension, modification, revocation of an airman certificate, of the nature of an investigation. They would further be required to advise pilots that an oral or written response to a letter of investigation is not required, that no action can be taken by the FAA against the pilot for declining to respond, that any response can be used as evidence against the pilot, and that the FAA's investigative report is available to the pilot.

Second, the bill clarifies "statutory deference" between the FAA and NTSB, and allows an airman at his own discretion to be able to appeal to the federal district court.

Third, the bill will requires that the FAA simplify the NOTAM system.  Inhofe says the system does not work, and that pilots are required to be aware of NOTAMs that the FAA may not have actually posted. An advisory board would be created to work with the FAA to determine the best course for assuring that pilots have access to NOTAMS in a timely fashion.

Finally, the bill creates an second advisory board to work with the FAA to review the grievance system associated with agency's medical certification process. Inhofe says that 28 percent of the AOPA's legal assistance to pilots goes towards assisting them with issues related to their medical certificates. The advisory board would provide greater clarity in questions and reduce the instances of misinterpretation, that have in the past led to allegations of intentional falsification against pilots. The board will be made up of non-profit general aviation groups, aviation medical examiners and qualified medical experts.

Inhofe said the proposed Bill of Rights is based largely on his personal experience last October, when he landed on a closed runway, missing, some said narrowly, workers on that runway. In his speech, Inhofe said by the time he realized the runway was closed he was committed to landing ... too low and slow in a heavily-loaded twin-engine airplane to execute a go-around.

Inhofe said it took him four months to get a transcript of the audio recordings of his conversations with ATC, "and I'm a United States Senator." He said the time he was given to respond to the allegations were unreasonable, and that in the course of his investigation, he found that a NOTAM advising of the closed runway was not posted until 11 days after his incident. His "Pilot's Bill of Rights" he says, will go a long way towards correcting those problems.

Inhofe made his remarks prior to an unrelated vote on the Senate floor. No companion bill exists as yet in the House.



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