Photo © Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr
In a move that is being applauded by the general aviation community, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) last week introduced two new GA-friendly bills. The new laws– the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act and the Pilots Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR-2) - could have a significant impact on general aviation operations if they move through congress.
Sen. Inhofe successfully led the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights through Congress in 2012. PBOR-2 expands upon the pilot protections offered by the initial PBOR.
"The first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was a victory for the aviation community and made possible by the support of pilots and industry leaders across the nation," Inhofe said. "Since being signed into law, more issues facing the general aviation (GA) community have surfaced. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses these concerns and builds on the success of my previous legislation."
Twelve sponsors, including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), House General Aviation Caucus co-chair Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and a variety of industry stakeholders, such as AOPA, EAA, and GAMA, supported Sen. Inhofe’s Pilot Bill of Rights.
Mark Barker, President of AOPA, released this statement: "The introduction of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 is great news for the general aviation community and we are grateful to Sen. Inhofe for putting forward this legislation that would do so much to help grow and support general aviation activity. Pilots have already waited too long for medical reform, so we’re particularly pleased to see it included in this important measure. We will actively work with Congress to build support for this legislation that is so vital to the future of GA and the 1.1 million jobs that depend on it."
The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act was first introduced in 2013. The 2015 version intends to expand the medical exemption requirement for pilots, and the PBOR-2 addresses the same medical exemption requirements, along with a handful of other issues.
According to Sen. Inhofe’s website, highlights of the new bill will include the following:
The FAA has 180 days to weigh in on the regulations. If the organization doesn’t respond, the bills will automatically become laws.
- Medical Certificate Exemption:
Allows more pilots to operate without obtaining an aviation medical certificate. Under the new law, private pilots would be able to fly VFR or IFR in aircraft under 6,000 pounds, below 14,000 feet MSL, and under 250 knots.
- Due Process:
PBOR-2 will maintain the rights set forth in the first PBOR from 2012, and will extend those rights to all FAA certificate holders instead of just pilots. This means that maintainers, dispatchers and other certificate holders will also be granted due process rights along with the right to appeal an FAA decision through a merit-based trial in Federal Court.
- Violation Transparency:
The new bill will require the FAA to notify pilots of any pending enforcement action, as well as provide specific documentation.
- Flight Data Accessibility:
Under the new bill, pilots will be able to access data from contractors, including flight service stations, contract controllers and controller training programs in order to defend themselves from enforcement action.
- Protection for Volunteer Pilots:
PBOR-2 will establish a Good Samaritan Law to protect volunteer pilots from liability.
- Protection for individuals performing federal tasks:
PBOR-2 will establish liability protections for individuals performing federal tasks, such as designated examiners, medical examiners and airworthiness inspectors.
PBOR-2 will require the FAA to develop a better NOTAM (Notice to Airman) system, and maintains that the FAA will not be allowed to bring about enforcement action on pilots until they complete the NOTAM Improvement Program