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Unintended Consequences Of Ethics Reform Irks Congressional Pilots


January 11, 2007 — In the new House of Representatives' rush to approve an ethics package during their first hours on the job, language intended to curb lawmakers from accepting free flights in corporate jets may actually go farther than intended; it may also prevent lawmakers who are also pilots from flying their own aircraft.

The language, included in the ethics package's second section, states that members "may not use personal funds, official funds or campaign funds for a flight on a non-government airplane that is not licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate for compensation or hire."

Except that the FAA licenses pilots and carriers, not airplanes. The approved wording therefore results in a travel ban for House members on any plane that is neither owned by the government nor licensed-in other words, private and commercial airplanes.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) and others who use their own airplanes to travel within their districts want the language fixed.

".fix the language of the rule so that it will not prohibit members of Congress from flying their own aircraft," said Graves, who flew his 1943 Boeing/Hughes PT-13D Super Stearman biplane to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006 and is also a homebuilder. "Many members of Congress, particularly in rural or large areas, rely on airplanes as a primary means of transportation to travel within their districts. Taking away a member's ability to travel by plane limits their ability to serve their constituents."

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