AIN Blog: GA Pilot’s Bill of Rights May Ameliorate FAA Actions

 - February 3, 2012, 12:57 PM
Inhofe and Ford discuss Pilots' Bill of Rights
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, met with members of the caucus and fellow pilot Harrison Ford to discuss S. 1335, the Pilot's Bill of Rights.

After a run-in with the long arm of FAA enforcers in 2010, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced a “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” in the Senate. The stated purpose of S. 1335 is to provide fairer treatment and more access to information during FAA enforcement actions.

Inhofe, who has been a general aviation pilot for 50 years, has already collected 60 other senators as cosponsors. Last fall, during a visit on Capitol Hill with the Senate General Aviation Caucus, actor and avid GA pilot Harrison Ford endorsed the bill, which helped give it some impetus.

Now Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), co-chairman of the House General Aviation Caucus, and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) have introduced a “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” in the House of Representatives. H.R. 3816 would improve the relationship between GA pilots, the FAA and the NTSB.

It would offer pilots more protection during an FAA enforcement proceeding; require the FAA to work with the GA community to improve the notice to airmen system and clarify medical certification forms; and provide pilots greater access to information, such as Flight Service Station briefings.

“The support the bill has received, including [from a] a majority of the members of the Senate [transportation committee], is indicative of the commonsense approach to correcting problems faced by [GA] pilots,” said Inhofe. “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.”

Inhofe is also seeking to clarify what he calls the “statutory deference” that the NTSB affords the FAA when reviewing FAA enforcement cases. He criticized evidence that he said statistically demonstrates the NTSB’s rubber stamping of FAA decisions. Addressing that concern, his bill would allow pilots the additional remedy of pursuing appeals in federal district court.

Inhofe got in hot water with the feds when he chose to land his Cessna 340 on the main runway at a south Texas airport despite the big “X” on the threshold, causing workers to scatter as his airplane hopscotched over them and six construction vehicles.

(According to the Tulsa World, Inhofe claimed the incident “was not his fault.” But according to the FAA Investigation of Pilot Deviation Report, “Pilot landed on a closed runway at PIL. The runway had the required ‘X’ on the threshold. There were men and equipment on the runway at the time. The pilot stated that he did not check notams prior to the flight.” Under comments, the FAA inspector wrote: “When pilot did notice the ‘X’ panel on the threshold of the runway on short final, he still elected to land, avoiding the men and equipment on the runway.” The runway is 8,000 ft long.)

The downside of what Inhofe did was wrong and dangerous, but the FAA let him off with four hours of remedial training. In reality, that is a mere slap on the wrist.  The upside is that the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” may make things easier for GA pilots who run afoul of the FAA in the future—hopefully not for landing on a closed runway.   


I'd like to know why AIN's condemnation of Senator Inhofe's incident was buried in the last paragraph of this story. You are absolutely right - what he did was completely inexcusable - and his arrogance and unwillingness to admit he did something unsafe is even worse. We all make mistakes. But a professional pilot is willing to fess up and take steps to avoid repeating them. Senator Inhofe continues to blame everyone else but himself for his own stupidity - the airport operator, the NOTAM system, and the FAA legal system, when in fact he never checked NOTAMS before that flight. He had his secretary make the call.

This man is not a hero to the general aviation industry - he's an embarrassment. It's a real shame that the alphabet groups are so desperate for a friend in DC that they're willing to hitch their wagon to any idiot that comes along.

While I agree that what Sen. Inhoefe may have been bad and shows poor judgement (landing instead of doing a go around), what is really bad and corrupt is the fact that the FAA for years has been abusing pilots of all kinds (from professional Air Carrier and Corporate ATP's to Private GA pilots) by operating in a pseudo legal system called Administrative Law, a system that would make any Banana republic proud! Under the current system, the FAA does not have to obey any "normally accepted" legal rules (such as those followed under the Civil and Criminal legal System), such as allowing for discovery and turning over evidence for the Defense Team to prepare a propper legal defense. Additionally, the FAA has all the chances of winning any such enforcement case, because not only will it file a case without having good and valid evidence against a pilot, they will hide the fact they don't have actionable evidence, and after they run roughshod over the pilot and his lawyer, the FAA again wins if the pilot appeals, because the NTSB Administrative Law Judge(the ALJ which works for the same DOT as the FAA does) will always (OK, only 97.5% of the time) side with the FAA with a virtual "rubber stamp". If the pilot wishes to spend and waste some additional money, he can appeal to the whole NTSB Board, which will itself then rubber stamp the ALJ's decision, which had previously rubberstamped the FAA's erroneous decision.
In reality, this Proposed Law does not nearly far enough to protect Pilot's Rights. Only when the FAA is forced to abandon the use of Administrative Law (a Banana Republic procedure) and forced to use either the Civil or Criminal Court Proceedings, will pilot's have a fair shot at defending themselves from any FAA abusive Enforcement investigation. But at least, this proposed Bill is a start!

It should also include a revision of the medical form that removes most of the medical check boxes. This form is an unreasonable invasion of privacy for many people and has resulted if far too many medical hassles.

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