Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), acknowledged by many as general aviation’s best friend in government, returned to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 for his 40th consecutive year after a busy week in Washington, where he introduced legislation to revitalize aviation.
The new bill, S.3270, named the Securing and Revitalizing Aviation Act of 2018 (SARA), is a follow on to Inhofe’s Pilot’s Bill of Rights 1 and 2, passed in 2012 and 2016. That legislation led to significant improvements in legal due process for FAA violations and reforms to the Third Class Medical called BasicMed.
“I’ve taken advantage of BasicMed along with thousands of others,” confirmed Inhofe, 83, who is the only active commercial pilot in the Senate.
A Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Inhofe owns a Cessna 340, an RV-8, and a Grumman Tiger. He has amassed over 11,000 hours, including a 1991 flight to recreate Wiley Post’s historic 1931 trip around the world.
Many of the changes to general aviation proposed by Inhofe come from personal experience, plus input from pilot town hall forums such as the one held Saturday, July 28, at AirVenture.
“I recently had trouble finding a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) when I needed a check ride to renew my CFI before it ran out,“ he said. “The new legislation will change the rule limiting DPEs to only two check rides per day and also remove geographical boundaries.”
To help eliminate the looming pilot shortage, the SARA Act would enable schools across the country to benefit from grants that would bring ground school education into classrooms and expose students to a career in aviation, both in the cockpit and as aircraft maintenance professionals.
The SARA Act also supports Inhofe’s existing legislation to modernize FAA-approved curriculum for aircraft maintenance. Inhofe noted that the FAA’s curriculum wastes time teaching maintenance professionals about decades-old technology instead of equipping them to repair the modern aircraft being used today.
Other proposed changes include protection for volunteer pilots and permanently eliminating FAA charges for the extra controllers required for air shows such as AirVenture.
As senior member of the U. S. Senate Armed Services Committee and primary sponsor of the defense authorization bill, Inhofe said he is passionate about improving the military aircraft fleet and addressing the shortage of military pilots. Currently, the Air Force is short about 1,500 pilots.
Inhofe also looks forward to the passage of this year’s FAA reauthorization because he worked diligently to ensure it contains resources and provisions to benefit the general aviation community. His reforms include allowing airports greater flexibility to expand investments in infrastructure. He’s also led efforts to encourage public-private partnerships to support local, small airports.
When asked about the status of ATC privation, which continues to rear its head, Inhofe emphatically stated “that’s dead and gone.”
“Since I flew around the world, I know what it’s like to fly in countries other than the United States,” he said. “We have the best system now and I have a favorite saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”