July 2, 2012

NBAA welcomed the unanimous passage last week of legislation intended to provide general aviation (GA) pilots with more equitable treatment during federal enforcement actions against them, and improve the presentation of notice to airmen (NOTAM) information used for preflight planning.

Senate Bill 1335, known as the “Pilot’s Bill of Rights,” received strong support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The bill was introduced last year by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and was co-sponsored by 65 other lawmakers, including Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX.).

“This is a big victory for general aviation pilots all across the country,” Inhofe said. “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, like everyone else, treated in a fair and equitable manner by the justice system.”

The bill includes provisions intended to not only protect pilots during enforcement proceedings, but also streamline pre-flight planning in order to prevent potential deviations from occurring. The bill calls on the FAA to implement a NOTAM Improvement Program to simplify the presentation of NOTAMs and make that information more pertinent to a pilot’s specific route. Inhofe’s bill also requires the FAA to archive this data, as well as communications from flight service stations (FSS) and contract towers, in a manner easily accessible to pilots seeking that information to defend against enforcement action.

The Pilot’s Bill of Rights additionally requires that the FAA give pilots sufficient notice of a possible enforcement action against them and provide the pilot with all relevant evidence at least 30 days prior to a decision to proceed with the action. The bill also calls for the review of FAA enforcement actions by the National Transportation Safety Board.

“NBAA welcomes Senate passage of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, which gives pilots additional peace of mind when confronted with possible enforcement actions,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “We thank the bipartisan group of senators for their support for this legislation, and the general aviation community.”

The legislation also calls for a review by the Government Accountability Office of the FAA’s medical certification process, with emphasis on reducing accusations of records falsification against pilots, and the creation of advisory boards to the FAA composed of representatives from major aviation advocacy associations.

Similar legislation introduced last January by Reps. Sam Graves (R-6-MO) and Dan Lipinski (D-3-IL) is now under consideration.