Inhofe/Graves 2nd Pilot’s Bill of Rights: Revolutionary; should there be more?

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Sen. Inhofe now has written one more Bill of Rights than the Founding Fathers (Madison, Mason, Jefferson) now that he has co-introduced S. 571 with Rep. Graves (H.R. 1062), a fellow GA pilot. [The text for both bills has not been received by Congress.gov.]. Sen. Inhofe asked for input from the aviation community at Oshkosh [see above picture]. According to reports of what they included, it appears (some of the description of the draft may well expand the bills applicability) that the primary focus is again reform of the processes applicable to GA pilots and that may well be merited, but if these procedures should be revised, should not a review of all of the FAA enforcement powers be considered?

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What has been reported as the provisions of S. 571/ H.R.1062:

  • “Reforms FAA’s overly burdensome medical certification process by expanding an existing FAA medical standard to include more qualified, trained pilots;
  • Extends the due process rights preserved in the first PBOR to all FAA certificate holders, and enhances those rights by ensuring certificate holders have the right to appeal a FAA decision through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court.
  • Increases transparency for all FAA certificate holders subject to an investigation or enforcement action by holding FAA accountable for communicating with certificate holders. The FAA is required to articulate a specific description of the incident or incidents under investigation to parties involved in the investigation, and provide specific documentation relevant to its investigation.
  • Expedites updates to the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Improvement Program required in the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights and directs the FAA to develop a prioritization system organizing NOTAMs by urgency and importance, as well as include the effective duration of temporary flight restrictions. This ensures the most relevant and important information reaches the pilot. The legislation also mandates that the FAA certify the accuracy of posted NOTAMs.
  • Ensures the accessibility of flight data such as air traffic communication tapes and radar information produced by contract towers, flight service stations and controller training programs, giving certificate holders the ability to use this information to defend themselves during an enforcement action proceeding.
  • Extends liability protection to individuals designated by the FAA, such as aviation medical examiners, pilot examiners or designated airworthiness representatives. This provision provides the protections enjoyed by federal employees to individuals performing a uniquely federal function, ensuring everyone has access to medical professionals and designees to sign off on check rides and the flightworthiness of experimental aircraft.
  • Acts as a Good Samaritan Law for volunteer aviation pilots, protecting pilots from liability as long as they are following appropriate procedures. This is an important consideration for non-profit organizations dependent on volunteers that provide non-cost transportation for the public benefit.”

As a second Pilot’s Bill of Rights (2PBOR) (there were also added amendments to the original Bill of Rights), the provisions try to make the FAA medical review less burdensome, improve the quality of the NOTAMS and adding to the information available to airmen in an enforcement cases. The expansion of liability protection for AMEs, DMEs and the like as well as volunteer “Good Samaritan” pilots will require some artful language to override state liability statutes and judicial decisions.

The bold italicized language, if the final text denotes what this language connotes, will be revolutionary! Historically the FAA has had tremendous leverage in enforcement cases. Much of that advantage remains; in issuing a Press Release indicating that Air Carrier Certificate A or TC/PC holder B or Part 145 certificate holder C has violated some regulation, the public (particularly passengers) assumes that the accused is guilty (though it is not a crime).

Those two proposed sections would require the FAA to provide the Certificate Holder with more relevant information AND allows the Carrier/OEM/MRO to seek review before a Federal District Court. The significance of that is at USDC Judges are highly qualified, apply the demanding Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and will try the case de novo (that means the FAA will have to prove all of its case under those more exacting requirements.

This appears to be an excellent 2PBOR, but might it be useful for Congress to ask the Administrative Conference of the United States or some law school to review the existing FAA enforcement process?

Acronyms used in this article (in order):

GA: General Aviation

FAA: Federal Aviation Association

PBOR: Pilot’s Bill of Rights

NOTAM: Notice to Airmen

AMEs: Aviation Medical Examiner

DMEs: Designated Mechanic Examiner

TC/PC: Type Certificate/Production Certificate

OEM: Original Equipment Manufacturer

MRO: Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul

USDC: United States District Court

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