Senator Murkowski Backs "Pilot's Bill of Rights"

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and certified flight instructor with more than 10,000 flight hours, today introduced the Pilot’s Bill of Rights.  The bill has 24 originalco-sponsors, including Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.

“More than in any other state, Alaskans take to the air for not just recreation or travel, but to overcome our lack of roads and the vast distances we need to cover,” Senator Murkowski said. “That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor a bill that the Alaska Air Carriers Association agrees is an important step forward not just in getting our airmen safer and better informed, but when it comes to their basic rights.”

“In Alaska, we understand the need to look out for the best interests of general aviation pilots because aviation is such a vital part of life for so many of our communities,” said Senator Begich, who is co-chair of the Senate General Aviation Caucus. “It’s important that general aviation pilots receive fair treatment and up-to-date information from the FAA to help keep food, medicine, and mail moving across our state and arriving safely in the hands of the Alaskans who need it.”

“Today I am pleased to introduce the Pilot’s Bill of Rights,” said Inhofe.  “Over the course of my years in Congress, I have helped an untold number of pilots facing the pressure of dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This bill remedies many of the most serious deficiencies in the relationship between general aviation and the FAA, and ensures that pilots are treated in a fair and equitable manner. One of the reasons I got into politics was to fight for the everyday citizen facing an uphill battle with bureaucracy, and that’s why I’m so pleased to introduce this legislation—it’s a mixture of my love of flying and pilots and my job of legislating for the people.”

Details about the Pilots Bill of Rights

  • Requires that in an FAA enforcement action against a pilot, the FAA must grant the pilot all relevant evidence 30 days prior to a decision to proceed with an enforcement action. This is currently not done and often leaves the pilot grossly uninformed of his violation and recourse.
  • Clarifies statutory deference as it relates to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reviews of FAA actions. Too often the NTSB rubber stamps a decision of the FAA, giving wide latitude to the FAA and making the appeals process meaningless.
  • Allows for federal district court review of appeals from the FAA, at the election of the appellant.
  • Requires the FAA undertake a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Improvement Program, requiring simplification and archival of NOTAMs in a central location. The process by which NOTAMs are provided by the FAA has long needed revision. This will ensure that the most relevant information reaches the pilot. Currently, FAA makes pilots responsible for knowledge of pre-flight conditions. Non-profit general aviation groups will make up an advisory panel.
  • Makes flight service station communications available to all airmen. Currently, the FAA contracts with Lockheed Martin to run its flight service stations. If a request is made for flight service station briefings or other flight service information under FOIA, it is denied to the requestor because Lockheed Martin is not the government, per se. However, they are performing an inherently governmental function and this information should be available to pilots who need it to defend themselves in an enforcement proceeding.
  • The FAA’s medical certification process has long been known to present a multitude of problems for pilots seeking an airman certificate. The bill requires a review of the FAA’s medical certification process and forms, to provide greater clarity in the questions and reduce the instances of misinterpretation that have, in the past, lead to allegations of intentional falsification against pilots. Non-profit general aviation groups will make up an advisory panel.

In addition to Senators Inhofe, Murkowski and Begich, the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights” is also being co-sponsored by:  Sens. Johanns (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Thune (R-S.D.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), James Risch (R-ID)