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Details Emerge: Senator Inhofe Gets A Wrist-Slap For Closed Runway Landing

Political Official Was Required To Complete Seven Hours Of Remedial Training

The FAA has closed its investigation into an incident last October in which Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe landed his Cessna 340A on a closed runway at Port Isabel, TX, and the Senator has escaped with what amounts to a slap on the wrist for his actions.

Senator Inhofe

A letter sent by the FAA to Senator Inhofe, and posted on The Smoking Gun website, indicates that Inhofe "was advised that such an operation is contrary to Sections 91.13(a) and 91.103(a) of the Code of Federal Regulations."

The letter indicates that Inhofe "agreed to a program of remedial training as a substitute for legal enforcement action. Since then, you (Inhofe) have submitted evidence showing satisfactory completion of four hours of ground instruction in preflight planning and procedures, performance and limitations, aircraft weight and balance, operations at uncontrolled airports, airport runway and taxi signs, markings, and lighting ... and aeronautical decision making. In addition, you have completed three hours of flight instruction in preflight procedures to include cockpit management, cross country flight procedures ... and airport taxiway signs and markings ... and aeronautical decision making."

The FAA says it has considered all the available facts, and that following the "satisfactory completion" of the remedial training that "legal enforcement action will not be pursued."  The matter will be on Inhofe's record for two years, and then expunged.

But recordings also posted on the website from an interview with construction supervisor Sidney Boyd indicate that Inhofe's airplane "damn near hit" one of the construction trucks, and that the plane touched down and then "sky hopped over us." Boyd, who says he has often done work at airports, said it was the first time he'd ever seen anything like this happen. He asserts that Inhofe "knew the runway was closed ... he just went right over a huge yellow 'X' and he was coming down right in the middle of us."

In a third recorded conversation, airport manager Marshall Reece told the FAA that "I have never seen such a reckless disregard for human life in my life." He indicated it was not the first time Inhofe had violated FAR's and said "something needs to be done."

Cessna 340 File Photo

When asked about in-cockpit distractions, Inhofe reportedly told the FAA that he was showing a passenger in the airplane sitting in the right front seat how some of the Cessna's cockpit technology worked. But in a statement, he said that his interactions with the FAA were in no way an admission or proof of a violation. Inhofe said he considers the matter closed.

E-I-C Note: While we're normally big fans of the activities of the Senator, we can't help but note that this case illustrates how badly the FAA dispenses what it considers 'justice.' If any regular flyer had done any of the acts asserted in the factual investigation (alleged to Inhofe), the flyer would have had to deal with a LOT more than remedial training. In an age where the FAA clobbers those with whom it has a gripe with draconian enforcement measures (revocation of certificates for highly questionable paperwork errors, for instance). The FAA dispenses justice ineffectively and inequitably... and makes the aviation world look pretty ridiculous as a result. ANN continues to call for an Airman's Bill of Rights as an initial effort on the road to making flying safer, more 'just' and truly reflective of the spirit that this industry was built upon. But... we're not holding our breath... -- Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C.



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