As Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe prepares to leave Congress after more than 28 years as a Senator, his office has released a list of his accomplishments.
One such lengthy list is called a “Legacy of Aviation,” which details his efforts to help the aviation industry.
A pilot with over 11,000 flight hours, his office said the senator fought tirelessly for the general aviation community throughout his tenure in the U.S Senate. Beginning his senatorial work in 1994, more than 28 years ago, Inhofe has been an advocate for the entire general aviation community and has made its priorities his own.
Some of Inhofe’s most notable congressional feats for general aviation include enacting third class medical reform, enhancing GA pilot protections, supporting commercial pilots, championing a strong aviation workforce for the 21st century, protecting contract towers and supporting needed investments in general aviation and commercial aviation airport infrastructure.
Sen. Inhofe has received numerous awards to honor his work on behalf of the aviation community, including the Living Legend of Aviation Award, AOPA’s Hartranft Award, the Regional Airline Association Leadership Award, the Contract Tower Congressional Leadership Award and many others – all showcasing his monumental commitment to aviation over his career. Due to Sen. Inhofe, the future of general aviation is bright and the freedom to fly in our nation’s skies has been preserved. The aviation community has and will continue to expand and prosper.
Jim Inhofe Recreates Wiley Post’s Flight Around the World – In June 1991, Jim Inhofe who was a member of the House of Representatives at the time, flew a twin-engine Cessna 414 from D.C. to Iceland, Berlin, Moscow, across Siberia and back to Alaska. It was quite an adventure, made all the more so by the fact that Inhofe obtained a visa to enter the USSR after having taken off to land there.
Timeline of Sen. Inhofe’s Accomplishments for the General Aviation Community
During his tenure in the Senate, Inhofe had many achievements for the general aviation community. His key accomplishments include:
Sponsored S.2129: Amends Federal aviation law, with respect to the automatic stay of administrative orders pending appeal, to revise general deadline requirements for the National Transportation Safety Board to make a disposition concerning the issues on appeal that are related to the existence of an emergency.
Sponsored S.928 – The Federal Aviation Administration Reform Act of 1995: Removes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from the Department of Transportation and re-establishes it as an independent federal agency. Establishes within the FAA the Civil Aeromedical Institute to conduct aeromedical research.
Sponsored and Passed S.Amdt.1663: To express the sense of the Congress that the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration should develop a national policy and related procedures concerning the interface of the Terminal Automated Radar Display and Information System and en route surveillance systems for Visual Flight Rule (VFR) air traffic control towers.
Sponsored S.Amdt.1889: Directed the Assistant Administrator for the Civil Aviation Security to establish an employment register in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. This amendment was agreed to in Senate on October 11, 2001 and became Public Law on November 19, 2001.
Introduced and Passed S.Amdt.1890: Requires a report on any air space restrictions put in place as a result of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that remain in place.
Introduced and Passed S.Amdt.1893: To require the Assistant Administrator for Civil Aviation Security to have certain detection technologies in place by September 30, 2002.
Sponsored S.Amdt.896: To establish age limitations for airmen.
Sponsored S.Amdt.894: To amend the provisions dealing with security measures for general aviation and air charters. This amendment was agreed to in Senate on June 12, 2003 and became Public Law on December 12, 2003.
Sponsored S.2007 – General Aviation Reparations Act: Directs the president to take certain actions to compensate general aviation entities and their employees for economic injuries incurred by them as a result of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Sponsored S.959: To limit the age restriction imposed by the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration for the issuance or renewal of certain airman certificates and for other purposes.
Inhofe Hails Victory for Enid and Ponca City Airports: On Tuesday, January 18, 2005, Inhofe announced that he secured a two-year extension for federal funding of the Essential Air Service program for both Enid’s Woodring Regional Airport and Ponca City Airport.
Cosponsored S.3661 – Wright Amendment Reform Act: Amends the International Air Transportation Competition Act of 1979, with respect to provisions concerning air transportation to or from Love Field, Texas (the Wright Amendment), to authorize domestic air carriers and foreign air carriers (with respect to foreign air transportation) to offer for sale and provide through service and ticketing air transportation to or from Love Field, Texas, and any U.S. or foreign destination through any point within Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Alabama (effectively expanding domestic and foreign air service to and from Love Field, Texas). Terminates the Wright Amendment eight years after enactment of this Act. It became Public Law on October 13, 2006.
Sponsored S.Amdt.2796: To prohibit the use of funds to implement the proposed Air Traffic Control Optimum Training Solution of the Federal Aviation Administration. This amendment was agreed to in the Senate on September 11, 2007.
“Fair Treatment for Experienced Pilots Act” (H.R. 4343): Inhofe’s included language raised the mandatory retirement age of commercial pilots from 60 to 65.
Altus AFB Provisions in FY2009 NDAA: Included $10.8 million in FY2009 NDAA to build a digital airport surveillance radar at Altus Air Force Base. This greatly increased military, commercial, and general aviation safety.
Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act: Inhofe sent a letter to the majority and minority leader requesting consideration and passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009.
The Pilots’ Bill of Rights: Inhofe led a major effort to reign in over-regulation of the aviation industry by the FAA. The Pilots’ Bill of Rights sought to correct prominent problems faced by General Aviation pilots when dealing with FAA enforcement actions.
Protecting Privacy Rights of Pilots: Inhofe led efforts to protect the Block Aircraft Registry Request (BARR) Program in HR 2112, which prevents unknown persons from monitoring the location of general aviation aircraft and personal movements of individuals.
Sponsored S.Amdt.86: The Model Airplanes Regulation Amendment – Denies the FAA the ability to regulate model airplanes. It passed the Senate by a voice vote on February 17, 2011. The measure ultimately became Public Law on February 14, 2012.
Sponsored S.Amdt.50: Volunteer Pilot Organization Protection Amendment – To provide liability protection for non-profit, charitable volunteer pilots that provide free transportation to people in need of specialized medical treatment in distant lands due to family, community or national crises. While Inhofe’s amendment passed the Senate by a voice vote on February 17, 2011, it was not ultimately included in the measure that became law.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Sites: On April 11, 2014, Inhofe organized an Oklahoma delegation letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta highlighting concerns that the FAA’s selection of UAS Test Sites may not have complied with the Congressional requirements outlined in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Protecting the Nation’s Contract Towers: Inhofe wrote the Senate Committee on Appropriations, urging the inclusion of language ensuring full and dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program as part of the fiscal year 2014 budget for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Sponsored S.2614: Extended the option to American Airline employees to contribute recently received bankruptcy settlement payments to retirement accounts without incurring a tax penalty. Senate Bill 2614 was signed into law in 2014.
Grant for City of Enid: The FAA awarded the City of Enid a grant of nearly $1.4 million to extend the runway to meet Woodring Regional Airport’s civil aviation needs to support the pilot training mission at nearby Vance Air Force Base.
FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center for Excellence: On September 22, 2014, Inhofe led an Oklahoma Delegation letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in support of the Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration: Safe Innovative Graduated Harmonious Transition (UAS-INSIGHT) proposal submitted by Oklahoma State University, the University of Maryland, and the University of California to accelerate the future integration of UAS into the national airspace.
Transportation Appropriations Act – Protecting Contract Towers: Inhofe led a bipartisan letter signed by 25 additional senators to the Senate Committee on Appropriations urging the inclusion of language ensuring full and dedicated funding for the Contract Tower Program as part of the fiscal year 2016 budget for the FAA. Full funding was enacted for 2016 in the Transportation Appropriations Act, which was included in P.L. 114-113, enacted on Dec. 18, 2015.
Sponsored Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2: Inhofe introduced Senate Bill 571 (Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2), which became a public law and worked to give reforms to FAA’s third-class medical certification process for recreational pilots to address the bureaucratic and burdensome process, which discourages pilots from disclosing and treating medical conditions that could impact their ability to fly.
Sent Letters Urging FAA to Implement Intent of Third-Class Medical Reform: Inhofe co-authored a letter signed by 84 senators and representatives that was sent to the FAA urging the association to implement Third Class Medical Reform. In January of 2017 the FAA adopted the bill section, a win for the U.S. pilot community.
Sponsored S.3217 – Improving Air Traffic Controller Instruction: Exempts retired air traffic controllers from a reduction to their Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement (on account of their earnings for work performed while entitled to the annuity after their separation from federal service) during any period in which they are employed full time as air traffic control instructors under contract with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Establishing Commercial Air Services for Stillwater: Inhofe, throughout his time in the Senate, heard about the need to establish commercial air service in Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 2013, Inhofe sent a letter to the Department of Transportation, encouraging them to support the establishment of commercial air service in Stillwater. He also sent a letter in 2015 to American Airlines, asking them to work with Stillwater to establish service. To assist in the cost of reestablishing commercial air service, the city of Stillwater was able to use substantial local funds to match an FAA grant provided the city through the Small Community Air Services Development Program to renovate the airport’s passenger terminal and market the cost of the new service. In August of 2016, American Airlines offered its first commercial flight from Stillwater to Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, which provides North Central Oklahoma communities with quick access to the major international hub that serves over two hundred destinations around the world.
Investment in Bristow’s Jones Memorial Airport: Inhofe strongly supported efforts by the City of Bristow and state officials to secure existing federal funding resources that would allow the City of Bristow to fund construction of a new runway. As a result of the senator’s advocacy, the City of Bristow was awarded a $3.4 million grant from the FAA and a $1 million grant from the EDA for the construction of a new runway at Bristow’s Jones Memorial Airport.
University of Oklahoma selected to lead new FAA Center of Excellence: When the FAA announced its plans to establish a Center of Excellence for Technical Training and Human Performance (COE), Inhofe led a letter in support of the University of Oklahoma’s application that was signed by the entire Oklahoma delegation. OU was selected to be a lead university for the new COE and established as a public-private partnership with top-tier academic research institutions.
Contract Weather Observers: The FAA proposed eliminating contract weather observers who record and interpret weather and climate data and supply that information to pilots, airlines, the National Weather Service and local news meteorologists to ensure the safety of the flying public. The elimination would have included these professionals at Will Rogers World Airport and Tulsa International Airport, without fully studying the safety risks and operational effects on airports and airlines that could be a consequence of the change. Inhofe cosponsored an amendment to the FAA reauthorization bill that would prevent the FAA from cutting weather professionals at the nation’s airports until a thorough impact analysis could be completed.
Appropriations Language Supporting Tulsa Tower: Inhofe secured report language in the FY17 Transportation Appropriations Bill directing the FAA to work with airports to replace aging control towers and encourage the FAA to enter into cost recovery leases with airports, which would provide Tulsa with the funding certainty necessary to build a new tower.
Modernization of Aviation Maintenance: Inhofe, along with three of his Senate colleagues, introduced a bill to improve training programs at aviation maintenance technical schools. The legislation would require the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to modernize the mandated curriculum, which had not been updated in five decades.
Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program: Inhofe introduced the Aviation Maintenance Workforce Development Pilot Program. This bipartisan legislation’s purpose is to help close the skills gap and fill aviation maintenance jobs.
Passage of FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018: The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included several of Inhofe’s previously introduced pieces of legislation that made much-needed investments to the nation’s airport infrastructure, supported the general aviation community, streamlined the FAA’s regulatory processes and enhanced aviation security. Inhofe’s provisions also addressed the shortage of pilots, aviation technicians and other professionals while creating collaborative pilot education and aviation workforce initiatives to make a career in aviation accessible to young Americans everywhere.
Sponsored the Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) 147 Act: Inhofe’s legislation, included as part of S.3969, the Aircraft Safety and Certification Reform Act of 2020, established performance-based regulations to ensure aviation maintenance education institutions have the flexibility to teach core curriculum reflective of the ongoing technical advances and innovation happening across the aviation and aerospace industry.
Sponsored S. 2898 – the CONTRACT Act: Inhofe, along with two of his Senate colleagues, introduced the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers Act (CONTRACT Act), to eliminate the financial penalty for FAA controllers that continued to work at federal contract towers past the mandated age of retirement and ensure air traffic control towers across the nation are fully-staffed with the most qualified, trained individuals available.
PARTT 147 Act passed into law in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 202: Inhofe’s legislation, the Promoting Aviation Regulations for Technical Training (PARTT) Act of 2019, to establish performance-based regulations to ensure aviation maintenance education institutions have the flexibility to teach core curriculum reflective of the ongoing technical advances and innovation happening across the aviation and aerospace industry was passed into law as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
Introduced S. 419, the CONTRACT Act: Inhofe joined two of his Senate colleagues to reintroduce the Continuity for Operators with Necessary Training Required for ATC Contract Towers Act to eliminate financial penalties for air traffic controls that continuing working pass the mandated age of retirement. This legislation was most recently considered by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs in November 2021 and was ordered to be reported favorably.
Sponsored S. 1752, to establish the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation: Inhofe, along with four of his Senate colleagues, introduced legislation to create the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation to support aviation and aerospace education efforts, bolster workforce development, amplify economic and safety data and research sharing and facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration across the aviation and aerospace community. This legislation was most recently considered by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in April 2022 and was ordered to be reported by voice vote.
Supporting the General Aviation Community: In 2021, Inhofe introduced three pieces of legislation as part of his commitment to invest in aviation infrastructure and support America’s aviation community: S. 2453, the PLANE Act, to empower the voices of pilots and ensure more opportunities for a trained aviation workforce, S. 2458, the Certainty for General Aviation Pilots Act, to provide certainty that pilots engaged in flight training and testing are not considered as “carrying persons or property for compensation or hire, and S. 2459, the HANGARS Act, to fund $1 billion in hangar improvements at general aviation airports across the nation.
Led Letter Encouraging DOT and FAA Support of Aviation Maintenance Training Schools: Inhofe led a letter signed by six of his colleagues to DOT and FAA encouraging them to implement a directive in support of aviation maintenance training schools as the aviation industry recovered from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secured Grants for Oklahoma Aviation Workforce Programs: Inhofe worked closely with former President Trump to establish two grant programs, one for Aircraft Pilots and one for Aviation Maintenance Technical Workers. Oklahoma was awarded nearly $1 million combined in grant funding from these programs.
Secured Funding for Aviation Programs in Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022: In continuation of his tireless work to advance the aviation and aerospace industry, Inhofe secured $10 million to establish an aviation workforce development program, $178 million to support contract towers and $5 million for the Tulsa International Airport to construct a new Federal Inspection Service Facility.
FAA published interim final rule implementing Part 147 law requirements: In 2020, Inhofe, along with three of his Senate colleagues, introduced legislation direct the FAA to update regulations that dictated what educational institutions teach aspiring aviation maintenance mechanics. On May 24, 2022, FAA published its long-awaited interim final rule implementing a new Part 147 that established the requirements for operating an aviation maintenance technician school certificated by FAA.
S. 419, the CONTRACT Act, was enacted into law. This legislation would remove the financial penalty facing retired FAA air traffic controllers who continue working as contract tower air traffic controllers – ensuring continued safety in the management of our nation’s air space.