WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Friday signed legislation written by Sen. Jim Inhofe to expand the rights of general aviation pilots who are facing potential penalties from the federal government.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, wrote the bill after his own dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration. A pilot for more than 50 years, Inhofe was required to take remedial training in 2010 to avoid legal action from the FAA after he landed his plane on a closed runway in Texas, scattering a frightened construction crew that was working on the landing strip.
Inhofe has denied being at fault and contends he was not allowed access to important evidence while the incident was being investigated by the FAA. His bill would require the FAA to give a pilot under investigation all relevant evidence at least 30 days before a decision to proceed with an enforcement action.
Pilots also would have to be given access to flight service and tower communications provided by government contractors. Inhofe said the information currently can be denied under federal freedom of information requests since contractors are not subject to the law, even though pilots may need the information in an enforcement proceeding.