Senator Lisa Murkowski joined 31 of her Senate colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), asking the committee to hold a hearing and markup of S.1335, the Pilot's Bill of Rights -- legislation that grants aviators greater transparency in their interactions with the FAA.
"Alaska's skies are our highways in many cases and we take to the air far more than residents of other states to overcome our lack of roads and the vast distances we need to cover," Senator Murkowski said. "So Alaskans need to see follow-through and movement on this bill more than residents of other states, and I'm joining my colleagues in asking for movement on this bipartisan bill that will make the skies safer and the pilots better informed."
The Pilot's Bill of Rights would:
* Require that when the FAA takes an enforcement action against a pilot, it grants the pilot all relevant evidence 30 days prior to a decision. This is not presently the case and leaves pilots in the dark of the violation and possible recourse.
* Review the FAA's medical certification process, giving pilot candidates more information when they are applying for an airman certificate. The bill aims to provide greater clarity in the questions and reduce the instances of misinterpretation that have, in the past, lead to allegations of intentional falsification against pilots.
* Clarifies statutory deference as it relates to National Transportation Safety Board reviews of FAA actions. Too often the NTSB rubber stamps a decision of the FAA, giving wide latitude to the FAA and making the appeals process meaningless.
* Allows for federal district court review of appeals from the FAA, at the election of the appellant.
* Requires the FAA undertake a NOTAM Improvement Program, requiring simplification and archival of NOTAMs in a central location. The process by which Notices to Airmen are provided by the FAA has long needed revision. This will ensure that the most relevant information reaches the pilot.
* Makes flight service station communications available to all airmen. Currently, the FAA contracts with Lockheed Martin to run its flight service stations. If a request is made for flight service station briefings or other flight service information under FOIA, it is denied to the requestor because Lockheed Martin is not the government -- despite the fact Lockheed Martin is performing a governmental function. The Pilot's Bill of Rights would make the information available to pilots who need it to defend themselves in an enforcement proceeding.