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Senator, longtime GA advocate James Inhofe to retire in January

General aviation pilot and advocate Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) will retire from the U.S. Senate in January. Photo courtesy of the office of Sen. James Inhofe.

“A leader, a gentleman, and a pilot best describes Senator Jim Inhofe. General aviation is, in large part, growing and vibrant in the United States today because of the senator’s passion for flying and his years of dedicated public service to help make it so,” said AOPA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jim Coon.

Inhofe has made numerous contributions to aviation throughout his career, which spans almost three decades, that have helped the GA community as well as those in the commercial aviation sector.

Inhofe was on the front lines in the fight for Bob Hoover and other aviators with his 1999 legislation that came to be known as the “Hoover Bill,” which allows FAA certificate holders to immediately appeal emergency revocations to the National Transportation Safety Board, after the FAA made the decision to revoke Hoover’s medical certificate without cause.

In 2011, Inhofe introduced legislation to level the playing field between individual pilots and the FAA. Known as the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, this legislation was unanimously passed and signed into law in 2012, and made FAA enforcement proceedings and NTSB reviews more fair for pilots by ensuring pilots understood their rights and had access to information to appropriately defend themselves during enforcement proceedings.

Third class medical reform was a key provision in Inhofe’s Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2. The legislation to reform the medical certification process for recreational pilots was introduced by Inhofe in 2015, and BasicMed was enacted into law in 2016. Today, more than 70,000 pilots have qualified to fly under the program since its inception.

When the bill was signed into law, Inhofe said, “The implementation of BasicMed is a huge win for the general aviation community. The rule will cut bureaucratic red tape and will encourage pilots to disclose and treat medical conditions that may affect their ability to fly. Further, the new rule will ease the medical certification process for pilots while increasing their knowledge of risk and requiring treatment of recognized conditions. I look forward to FAA’s swift approval of AOPA’s online medical education course ‘Fit to Fly’ and look forward to working with the agency throughout its implementation process.”

And in 2021, Inhofe included AOPA-backed language in the National Defense Authorization Act, which was signed into law, requiring the FAA and Department of Defense to develop a system that will provide real-time status of special-use airspace, including military operations areas, directly into the cockpit, thereby improving the efficient use of the national airspace system. A MITRE Corp. study suggested that implementing such a system could save $100 million annually in fuel burn and improve our environment by significantly reducing carbon emissions.

Inhofe has also made a lasting impact in the commercial sector, from introducing legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age of commercial pilots from 60 to 65 in 2007 to ensuring retirement security for all American Airlines employees after the carrier’s bankruptcy in 2011.

Inhofe has championed the continued operation of all federal contract towers, leading efforts to ensure this program is funded every year. Furthermore, in 2016, Inhofe’s legislation that incentivized the hiring and retention of full-time air traffic controller instructors was signed into law—ensuring the men and women managing our nation’s airspace have the best training possible.

To help combat the shortage of trained pilots, aviation technicians, and other necessary professionals, Inhofe introduced legislation in 2018 to support the development and spread of necessary high school aviation science, technology, engineering, and math curriculum to help grow the aviation workforce. He also introduced legislation to establish the National Center for the Advancement of Aviation focused on bringing the industry together to eliminate aviation workforce shortages and keep U.S. aviation prepared and competitive in a global market.

Referring to his retirement, Inhofe said, “Nothing is going to change until almost a year from now. It’s important for everyone to know that we are continuing the work we have been doing for a long time now.

“I will be leaving office the same day that (current chief of staff) Luke Holland will assume the role of Senator. Luke is not just a good friend, but really is the person who runs our office today. I am glad that he starts his journey as candidate today and begins his journey to January 3.”

“Senator Jim Inhofe’s contributions to general aviation over the years are significant and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of pilots across the nation, and our gratitude for his tireless efforts cannot be measured,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We look forward to continuing to work with him through the remainder of this year. I am so proud to consider Jim a friend and fellow pilot, and we wish him and Kay all the best.”

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