As pilots at AirVenture 2016 and throughout the nation celebrated the July 15th signing of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 and the Third Class Medical reforms it included, the bill’s sponsor, Senator James Inhofe (R-Oklahom) warned “it’s not over.”
During an interview at his North 40 camp site at Oshkosh, Inhofe expressed concern regarding the FAA’s rule making latitude going forward.
“Our job is not over yet because the FAA has up to a year from the date of signing to interpret the law and write new regulations,” he said. “The clock is ticking.”
Inhofe added that the bill’s co-sponsors and the pilot community must remain vigilant and involved to ensure that the spirit and intent of the new law is reflected in the FAA’s revised rules for private pilots.
“Letter writing campaigns by (members of) the EAA and the AOPA were very effective in getting the bill passed,” added Inhofe. “Those letters were a great source of leverage for us and we could not have done it without strong support from the pilot community.”
Inhofe said he had many one-on-one meetings with his Senate colleagues to solicit their support.
“We had more support from lawmakers on Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 than on the first bill,” he said, referring to Pilot’s Bill of Rights 1, which took two years to get passed.
Inhofe cited critical “across the aisle” support for the first bill from Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada).
In addition to third class medical reform, the newly-passed bill also includes a wide range of new protections for pilots, including improved due process if an FAA enforcement action is initiated.
Inhofe, 81, is an avid pilot and aircraft owner with over 12,000 hours logged. He’s been attending the Oshkosh fly-in for 36 years and has flown in and camped for 32 consecutive years. Inhofe has owned the same Grumman Tiger for 36 years and he once bought 54 brand new Tigers from the Grumman factory in Savannah when it was closing out production of that line. However, an RV-6 is his favorite airplane.
Inhofe introduced the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights Bill in July 2011 after he experienced first-hand the deficiencies of the FAA’s relationship with the general aviation community due to the treatment he received from the FAA when he was cited for landing a Cessna 340 twin on a runway in Texas that turned out to be closed, but not by an official NOTAM.
“It took me four months to get a recording of the clearance to land I received from the controller,” said Inhofe. “For those four months, I thought some unelected bureaucrat could take away my ability to fly an airplane … and it could happen to any one of you.”
On a personal note, Inhofe is looking forward to third class medical reform because he had a quadruple heart bypass three years ago and once again experienced what he describes as the overly-bureaucratic FAA processes that discourage many pilots from renewing their medical certificates.
When the new regulations kick in come July 2017, Inhofe will no longer be required to see an FAA doctor each year to maintain his third class medical. Instead, along with thousands of other private pilots across the country, he will only be required to take an online aeromedical course every two years and to see his personal doctor at least once every four years.
Will there be a Pilot’s Bill of Rights 3? Inhofe said it remains to be seen, but that he will carefully monitor the FAA’s rulemaking process over the next year, adding he is willing to introduce a third bill if needed.