WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR 2), legislation to expand the third class medical exemption for recreational pilots and broaden the protections provided in the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights signed into law in 2012, was introduced today in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and a certified flight instructor with more than 11,000 flight hours, introduced S. 571 in the Senate, while Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.), an aircraft owner and avid pilot who helped establish the General Aviation Caucus in the House, introduced H.R. 1062, t
“The first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was a victory for the aviation community and made possible by the support of pilots and industry leaders across the nation,” Inhofe said. “Since being signed into law, more issues facing the general aviation (GA) community have surfaced. The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses these concerns and builds on the success of my previous legislation. Among the provisions included in the bill are an expansion of the third class medical exemption and a significant improvement to the due process rights of pilots facing enforcement actions from the FAA.
“As a pilot, I know how important the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights, as signed into law in 2012, has been in establishing needed protections for pilots when dealing with FAA enforcement proceedings,” said Graves. “This new bill improves upon those protections and expands the rights afforded to pilot’s and other certificate holders. Additionally, this legislation includes common sense reforms to the FAA’s third class medical requirements building upon the success of the light-sport aircraft (LSA_ exemption. I fully expect this bill to receive the same strong, bipartisan support in Congress and across the general aviation community as the original Pilot’s Bill of Rights.”
Under the proposed laws, pilots flying recreationally in a wide range of aircraft would no longer need to obtain a third-class medical certificate.
The new bill also would allow private pilots to make non-commercial VFR and IFR flights in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds with up to six seats. Pilots also would be allowed to carry up to five passengers, fly at altitudes below 14,000 feet msl, and fly no faster than 250 knots.
PROB2 also includes a provision to ensure that pilots can fly under the new rules even if the FAA fails to comply with the bill’s provisions 180 days after enactment.
The introduction of the two bills is “great news” for the general aviation community, according to Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Mark Baker.
“Pilots have already waited too long for medical reform, so we’re particularly pleased to see it included in this important measure,” he said. “We will actively work with Congress to build support for this legislation that is so vital to the future of GA and the 1.1 million jobs that depend on it.”
Baker’s words were echoed by the leaders of GA’s other advocacy groups, including theExperimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association(GAMA).
“We strongly encourage our members to contact their lawmakers…urging them to co-sponsor and support these bills,” said EAA Chairman Jack Pelton. “At the same time, EAA continues to push the Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget to approve the long-overdue aeromedical rulemaking package for public comment. EAA and AOPA together introduced the concepts of aeromedical reform nearly three years ago, so it’s time to get this done via the legislative or regulatory route.”
“It is critically important that the third class medical issue is resolved quickly, and this bill sends a clear message to the bureaucracy to get it done,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA president. “Additionally, in this time of rapid communications technology, it is unacceptable that the NOTAM system remains broken — this bill will help to fix it. Finally, the liability protections offered to volunteer pilots in this bill are extremely important to the nation as general aviation continues to provide transportation for cancer patients, wounded veterans, and other citizens requiring assistance to access needed medical care.”
In August 2014, Inhofe released a draft of the PBOR 2 legislation to the public and requested feedback to improve the language.
At AirVenture in Oshkosh, he also hosted a public forum to solicit input for the legislation. He received more than 400 comments through his website from the general aviation community, which he said were read and considered in crafting the final legislation introduced today.
According to Inhofe, The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2:
•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.