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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. INHOFE. Madam President, in a moment I am going to propound a unanimous consent request. Before I do, I would like to say what it is on so people will understand the time and effort that has gone into getting legislation passed. I am referring now to S. 3268.

When John Glenn retired from this body, that left me as kind of the last acting commercial pilot. Consequently, I ended up getting a lot more of the complaints and problems within the FAA and the way accusations are made and enforcement actions are taken. I have gone to bat for a lot of these people when I believed there was really a fairness problem.

It was not until I had an experience, a personal experience, that I realized the depth of the problem. It is very hard for people in this room to understand. If you have been, as I have been, a private pilot, commercial pilot, and flight instructor for 55 years, what it would mean to have that license taken away from you if that were merely at the whim of some enforcement officer in the field. I think all of us know--when I was mayor of Tulsa, now and then we had a few police officers who could not handle the authority. It happens all the time. Certainly we hear about it with enforcement actions brought about by the FAA.

What happened to me, and I will share this with you--I think it is very important--I have probably more hours than most airline pilots have and I was still active in aviation. I was flying down to the southern part of Texas, the furthest south part of Texas, way down by Brownsville, to Cameron County Airport. Papa India Lima is the identifier for it. In this effort, with several passengers with me, I was going by the controllers. This is what you do not have to do but I always do for safety purposes. I went through the Corpus Christi approach control. He handed me off to the Valley approach control. I was going into a field that was uncontrolled, so the only control is the Valley approach control. They are watching on a screen, and they have all the information they need to direct you and authorize you to do things. They are looking for traffic and you are squawking, so they know exactly where you are, how high you are, and all the things that are happening. Again, you don't have to do that. On this day in October, a year ago October, I did not have to do it, but I did it anyway.

As I approached--the wind is always out of the south down there. The runway is 1 3--that coordinates with 130 degrees. When I was on about--I would have to go back and listen again to the voice recorder--about a 2- or 3-mile final to runway 1 3, the controller said: Twin Cessna 115 echo alpha, you are cleared to land runway 1 3.

When you do this, you dirty up your plane so you can land. This happens to be a pretty sophisticated twin-engine plane; you have to let the flaps down and gears down and all that stuff. You get to the point, if you have a full plane, beyond which you cannot go around. When I came in to make a landing, I did not see X on the runway because it was not very prominent, but nevertheless there was one there. But there were some workers on the far east side of the runway. This was a 8,000- or 9,000-foot runway. I only needed 2,000 or 3,000 feet. So I went over the workers and I landed. Immediately they got upset that I landed.

A lot of people, because I am a Member of the U.S. Senate, started calling the New York Times and the Washington Post. They had a wonderful time with this. I started looking at it and talking to the people who do the enforcement action. I have to say they were good, and they were responding to a lot of hysterical people, frankly, who did not like me. So they came with an enforcement action against me which merely was to go around the pattern with a CFI, a flight instructor. So I did this. I am also a flight instructor. I had given him his license, as a matter of fact. I went through this procedure, and everything was fine.

However, the problem was this: I was denied access to the information they were going to use against me. When I told them that I was cleared to land by the controller, it took me, a U.S. Senator, 4 months to get the voice recording to prove I was right.

Second, there is a thing called Notices to Airmen. NOTAMS are supposed to be published every time there is work on a runway. Pilots are supposed to have access to NOTAMS. You look through your resources, as I always do, to see if there are NOTAMS on the runways where I land. When I go back on


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