Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Inhofe advocates Pilots' Bill of Rights

Sen. James M. Inhofe

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe this week promoted to the Senate the next steps needed for his Pilots' Bill of Rights legislation.

Inhofe is a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and certified flight instructor with more than 11,000 flight hours.

Inhofe and the cosponsors of Senate Bill 571 are working to simplify regulatory burdens on general aviation pilots while preserving the transparency of critical flight data, said Sen. John Thune, R-ND.

“I am expanding the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights to increase transparency for pilots and certificate holders so they have the information and resources to defend themselves against bureaucratic overreach and the inconsistent application of existing agency procedures,” Inhofe said.

The Pilot’s Bill of Rights of 2012 ensured that pilots receive fair and equitable treatment by the justice system, Inhofe said.

“The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 reforms FAA’s overly burdensome medical certification process by expanding an existing exemption for light sport pilots to include more qualified, trained pilots,” Inhofe said.

Expanding an exemption will not automatically decreases safety in the  bill, Inhofe said.

In 2004, FAA issued a medical exemption for pilots of light sport aircraft — these are planes that weigh less than 1,320 pounds and only have two seats, Inhofe said.

There are 9,500 of such planes in the U.S., Inhofe noted. In the 10 years since FAA issued this exemption, no light sport aircraft accidents has occurred because of medical deficiency, Inhofe said. Of the 46,976 aviation accidents that occurred from 2008 to 2012, only 99 had a medical cause as a factor, Inhofe continued.

“And of those 99, none would have been prevented by the current third class medical screening standards and the medical certification process,” he added. “Extending the medical exemption for light sport aircraft to include planes weighing up to 6,000 pounds with up to six total passengers, including the pilot, would add airman and aircraft to an existing FAA approved medical standard — without degrading or creating substandard safety.”

 A pilot would still have to meet current certification standards, according to the bill. All pilots must continue to pass the required practical tests and necessary check rides to fly their plane, Inhofe explained.

“This bill does create consistency for aviators across the country, where inconsistency and frustration are keenly felt,” Inhofe said.

The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 would extend due process rights in the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights to all FAA certificate holders, Inhofe said. Certificate holders’ rights to appeal a FAA decision would be protected through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court, Inhofe said.

This legislation also expedites updates to the Notice to Airmen Improvement Program (NOTAM). Information is provided to pilots about airspace, runways, or flight conditions in order to avoid hazards, he said.

“My bill directs FAA to develop a rating system prioritizing NOTAMs by urgency and importance and incorporate prioritizing NOTAMs…” Inhofe said.

The FAA would be required to designate a sole source repository for NOTAMs. The FAA would certify the accuracy of this information, and it prevent enforcement action on a NOTAM for one not included in the database, Inhofe said.

Additionally, liability protection would be extended in the bill to aviation medical examiners, pilot examiners or designated air-worthiness representatives, according to the bill.

“This bill also includes a provision that essentially acts as a Good Samaritan Law for volunteer aviation pilots, protecting pilots from liability as long as they are following appropriate procedures,” Inhofe said.

This bill has strong bipartisan support and builds on the previous success of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights by focusing the new issues facing airman and the general aviation community, Inhofe said.

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