Sen. Inhofe Wants To Ease ‘Desperation’ Of Pilots Faced With FAA ‘Overreach’

July 6, 2011 9:19 a.m.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) is pushing a bill that would protect pilots from “agency overreach” by the Federal Aviation Administration, in response to his own experience at the mercy of the FAA after he “scared the crap out of” airport workers last year when he landed his Cessna on a closed runway.

“I was never fully appreciative of the feeling of desperation until it happened to me,” he said.The bill is expected to be introduced Wednesday and called the “Pilot’s Bill Of Rights.” As Jim Myers of the Tulsa World reports:

Inhofe said his bill also would address what he called the “rubber-stamp” approach routinely taken by the National Transportation Safety Board when FAA actions are appealed; would allow a pilot to appeal to a federal court; would simplify the so-called Notice to Airmen system for providing relevant information to pilots; and would require a review of the current medical certification process.

“It’s our job in Congress to ensure that there are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent agency overreach,” Inhofe said. “This bill provides that.”

“Now that is just a matter of fairness,” he added. “If a person is going to be accused of something, he has to know what he is being accused of.”

Inhofe agreed to and completed a “program of remedial training” in place of legal action in December of 2010, according to an FAA report, after he landed his plane at Cameron County Airport in South Texas last October on a closed runway marked with a large X. According to the report, Inhofe saw the X but “still elected to land avoiding the men and equipment on the runway.”

Audiotapes of a call from Sidney Boyd, who was supervising runway construction, to the FAA identify Inhofe, and describe how he “sky hopped” over six vehicles and construction personnel on the runway, before he landed. The landing “scared the crap out of us,” Boyd said.

Inhofe said that part of the reason for his legislation was how difficult it was for him to get a hold of the audiotapes. “When I tried to get the voice recording, it took me four months, and I’m a United States senator.”

He also maintains his innocence: “I did nothing wrong, but at any time I could have suffered the revocation of a license.”

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