The ability for pilots to defend themselves during enforcement actions just got a little stronger after President Obama Aug. 3 signed Sen. Jim Inhofe’s ( R-Okla .) Pilot’s Bill of Rights (S.1335) into law. The House passed the bill – which had been co-sponsored by nearly two-thirds of the Senate – late last month. Senate passage came in June.
Inhofe, a pilot with more than 10,000 hr. of time, said after the signing: “This is a great day for general aviation.”
He introduced the bill a year ago, after he had his own run-in with FAA and was forced to complete remedial training. He had landed on a closed grass strip in Texas in 2010.
The bill, Inhofe says, “remedies many of the most serious deficiencies in the relationship between general aviation and the FAA, and ensures that pilots are, like everyone else, treated in a fair and equitable manner by the justice system.”
The bill requires National Transportation Safety Board review of enforcement actions to conform with federal rules of evidence and civil procedure; requires FAA to provide timely notice to pilots who are the subject of an investigation; makes communications from contract flight service stations and/or towers available to airmen; changes some of the statutory deference in the appeals process and allows for district court review of appeals from NTSB.
The bill further calls on FAA to improve the Notice to Airmen system and for a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of FAA’s medical certification process. FAA would be required to take action based on GAO recommendations.
“This law is good news for pilots,” says AOPA President Craig Fuller. “Having access to all available information, including FAA data, is critical for pilots who find themselves under investigation or whose certificates may be in jeopardy.”