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Forum Update - Pilot's Bill of Rights

By James Wynbrandt

  • Forum Update
    Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and his son at EAA AirVenture 16, Friday July 29, 2016.

July 29, 2016 - Attendees here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh have a unique opportunity to learn the latest news on third-class medical reform and the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2) Saturday, July 30, straight from its leading champions, when Sen. Jim Inhofe (R – Oklahoma) hosts a Forum at 10 a.m. at Forum Stage 7, joined by Jack J. Pelton, EAA CEO & chairman of the board, and Mark Baker, AOPA president and CEO.

But no one involved in these efforts should be resting on their laurels, Inhofe said in an interview Friday, July 29, with AirVenture Today. Though the FAA reauthorization extension signed by Congress earlier this month mandates the FAA reform medical certification rules, that’s just one component of PBOR2.

“It’s not quite done,” Inhofe told AVT. “Everyone was assuming once third-class medical reform [was achieved] that PBOR2 is finished, but it’s not. We will be outlining those [unfinished issues] and being very specific during the meeting at Pavilion 7.”

These issues include enhanced due process rights for pilots, increased transparency for those subject to an FAA enforcement action, increased access to flight data pilots can use in their defense during an enforcement action, and improvements to the agency’s protocols for disseminating NOTAMs in a timely fashion.

“My goal is to get back into session [in Congress] four weeks from now and pass the rest of PBOR2,” he said, stressing that “We can’t do it without both EAA and AOPA” and their membership. “You’d be surprised,” Inhofe continued. “I’ll be talking to [other senators] dead set against it, and once they get 200 or 300 calls [from organization members], all of a sudden they say, ‘Let’s talk about it.’ That’s how we got enough votes.”

“People in the U.S. Senate think just fat cats are flying,” Inhofe said. “I say, ‘Come to Oshkosh. There are thousands of entrepreneurial people who built things in their garage that NASA is now using, construction materials and other advances, that actually came from amateur inventors.”

Though Saturday’s forum will focus on PBOR2, “I know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to start getting questions about other issues,” and if necessary, these additional issues will be addressed “in PBOR3,” he promised.

Inhofe is attending his 36th consecutive Oshkosh fly-in, and arrived with his son Jimmy in the very same Grumman Tiger the pair flew here for their first Oshkosh. In the intervening years he’s come here with a variety of his children and grandchildren.

In addition to his Tiger, Inhofe owns an RV-8, a Harmon Rocket, and a twin-engine Cessna 340. “I just put two new RAM engines in the 340,” said Inhofe. I’m 81, and I’ll be flying for 30 more years, so I want to make sure I’ve got new engines on it.”

As for his favorite activities here at AirVenture, “People always ask that question,” he said. “When I go to Antiques and look at old planes, I love to see the 1939 Aeronca Champ, the plane I learned to fly in. I would answer that’s my favorite until I go to the Warbirds. Then I see how America’s heritage is reflected in the aircraft you see out here flying at Oshkosh. Then in the experimental area, I love experimentals. And in ultralights, I reflect back and think, they’re the same size and weight of the ’39 Aeronca Champ I learned to fly in, so it’s going full circle,” he said.

Inhofe said he sees many encouraging signs for the future of general aviation, citing the Young Eagles program among others. “I, like many people, volunteered in giving first [airplane] rides — I’m still a flight instructor — and there hasn’t been one who hasn’t said, ‘I want to participate in aviation.’ And ultralights open the door for people who couldn’t afford it before,” he continued. “You don’t have to be flying a Learjet to have fun flying.”

Meanwhile Inhofe shows no signs of slowing down. He faced nine opponents before being re-elected last year to his Senate seat. “The only thing they could say about me is, ‘Inhofe, you’re too old.’ My response was, ‘When I’m too old to fly upside down, I’ll be too old, so we shot a 30-second [TV] spot showing me flying upside down in my RV-8.” Spoiler alert: The video spot will kick off Saturday’s forum presentation.

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