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Inhofe Talks GA Protections at Oshkosh Forum
By Megan Esau
July 29, 2017 - U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) spoke to a crowded forum Saturday morning about the Fairness for Pilots Act and Forward Looking Investment in General Aviation, Hangars, and Tarmacs (FLIGHT) Act currently included in the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill.
Inhofe, an active GA pilot and EAA member, introduced both acts to Congress in 2017 to provide more pilot protections and resources to the community.
His Fairness for Pilots Act (S. 755) includes the provisions of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 that were not passed into law as part of the 2016 FAA reauthorization bill, particularly requirements for the FAA to improve accessibility to NOTAMs and increased transparency and due process for pilots under investigation.
“The Pilot’s Bill of Rights primarily was to give the rules of evidence to pilots, the same as everybody else would enjoy,” Inhofe said, explaining that contrary to a U.S. citizen’s rights, pilots under investigation, historically, are guilty until proven innocent.
The FLIGHT Act (S. 1320) would increase funding to GA airports from $600,000 over four years to $750,000 over five years, and make additional funds available for airports designated critical to disaster relief efforts.
“One of the major changes is that if a small airport doesn’t use that $600,000 over that period of time, it used to go back to the FAA and end up at places like DFW and other big airports,” Inhofe said. “This says it has to be returned to a general aviation airport.”
The increased funding would allow for improved infrastructure, including runway and taxiway updates, at GA airports across the country.
The FLIGHT Act would also include provisions helping to preserve contract towers, an issue EAA CEO and Chairman Jack J. Pelton said is very close to EAA.
“The tower that we have here at Wittman field is a contract tower,” Pelton said. “Without having these provisions in the bill, especially if we went to a privatized environment, you would see this tower go away, and essentially we would have no way to run AirVenture.”
Inhofe noted that ATC privatization is not included in the Senate’s FAA reauthorization bill, and said although Rep. Bill Schuster (R-Pennsylvania) was not able to garner enough votes for privatization in the House this week, the battle will continue.
“It’s not over yet,” he said. “But it’s because of you that we’ve had the successes that we’ve had so far.”