Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) has introduced a new aviation bill to the Senate floor, called the Fairness for Pilots Act. This new bill would push for fairer treatment of pilots during FAA investigations, and it would require the FAA to speed up its efforts to improve the flight information it provides.
An experienced pilot with over 11,000 flight hours, Inhofe is no stranger to advocating for pilots. He has previously worked on the the Pilot’s Bill of Rights (signed into law in 2012), which helped to level the playing field for pilots when dealing with the FAA. In his new bill, Inhofe builds on the efforts made in his last bill to advocate for aviators during investigations and other inquires from the federal government. In other words, the new bill gives pilots a larger voice when dealing with the FAA. Inhofe is quoted as saying “ the Fairness for Pilots Act increases due process protections for pilots, ensures greater transparency in dealing with the FAA, and reduces the unnecessary bureaucratic barriers preventing pilots from flying” (The Office of Sen. James M. Inhofe). In addition, Inhofe’s offices stated that the bill “enhances the due process rights established in the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights by ensuring that airmen have the right to appeal an FAA decision through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court” (The Office of Sen. James M. Inhofe).
Congress isn’t a stranger to this kind of bill. Despite the fact that the Pilot’s Bill of Rights is now a law, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association reports that at least three other similar pro-pilot bills like the Inhofe’s have failed to be signed into law despite passing through one or both houses of congress. However, President Donald Trump’s recent disapproval of the FAA could mean that the bill could stand a chance with the president if passed through congress. (New Air Traffic Control improvements were referred to as “out of whack” by the president.) Trump has promised to reduce FAA regulation, which is in line with what Senator Inhofe’s bill calls for.
Inhofe’s bill was transferred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on March 29th, 2017. The Senate has not released a definitive date on when they will bring the bill to a vote of the whole house.