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Pilot Bill of Rights awaiting president's signature

August 3, 2012, 03:53 pm

The Pilot's Bill of Rights was recently approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives in record time according to the Experimental Aviation Association. It is now waiting to be signed by President Barack Obama.

Doug Macnair, the Experimental Aviation Association's vice president, says they have every reason to believe the president will sign it. The bill will significantly change the way in which pilots can defend themselves if they are caught in a Federal Aviation Administration enforcement action.

Senator Jim Inhofe, who is sponsoring the bill and has logged more than 10,000 flight hours, came under investigation by the FAA when he forced ground crews and trucks to quickly get away as he landed on the closed runway. Inhofe said that by the time he noticed the people and trucks it was too late to abort the landing. As punishment, the FAA ordered Inhofe to take remedial training in order to retain his pilot license. He complained he was not treated fairly by the 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," Inhofe said.

The most significant change on the bill is that the FAA will be required to give a pilot 30 days notice before investigating them, as well as provide the evidence against them at that time. Inhofe said this is currently not done in aviation and often leaves pilots "grossly uninformed" of violations and recourse.

Under the bill pilots would also be able to appeal FAA decisions in federal court if their initial appeal to the National Transportation Safety Board does not work. This allows a pilot to introduce evidence and review the facts with a new trial.

The Bill of Rights requires a review of the medical process. It will also require the alteration of the 8500-8 form.

“That medical application is antiquated and is asking questions that are no longer relevant,” said Kathy Yodice, an aviation attorney who has worked with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. “When the FAA finds something wrong on the application - even if it is just a mistake - they will seek to revoke all the pilot’s licenses and ratings. That could have been avoided if the form was clear.”

Pilots are encouraged to get life insurance. If the president signs the bill or not pilot life insurance will cover loved ones in the event of an emergency.

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