Inhofe plane landing under FAA investigation
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
10/27/10 at 5:37 PM
WASHINGTON -- The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed Wednesday that it is looking into U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe's landing last week on a closed runway at a small Texas airport.
"We are aware of the incident and we are looking into it to determine if any further action is warranted,'' FAA spokesman Lynn Lunsford said.
He also confirmed the FAA was at the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport on Friday, the day after the incident, to receive statements from eyewitnesses, reposition vehicles that were in the area and take photos.
Lunsford said he could not comment further at this stage of the process.
One of the eyewitnesses, Sidney Boyd, project manager for B-C Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, said the landing by Inhofe, R-Okla., on a runway clearly marked closed put workers in danger.
"I think it was a serious incident,'' Boyd said, predicting the FAA also will view the incident seriously.
"You shouldn't endanger people.''
Workers not only were close enough to feel the "backwash of the propeller,'' but one even was hit by debris, he said.
Boyd said the FAA was at the scene on Friday, the day after the incident, and took the statements of the workers.
For the FAA, the top issues are expected to be why the senator, who is a veteran pilot, landed on a runway that was marked with a giant "X" and whether he had read a so-called NOTAM, issued to notify all pilots of closed runways.
Inhofe landed at the airport on his way to a home he owns at South Padre Island.
On Tuesday, he told the Washington Post, which reported on the incident, he landed his plane "well off to the side'' of the workers performing maintenance on the runway.
When he left to return to Oklahoma, Inhofe reportedly used the airport's taxiway for his takeoff.
The FAA review also is expected to cover that as well.
In this 1999 file photo, Sen. Jim Inhofe (left) and Pete Rickel, a FBI agent with the Tulsa Office, looks at Sen. Inhofe's plane after he made an emergency landing at Claremore airport in May 1999. This is not the same plane that reportedly landed on a closed runway at a small Texas airport last week. Tulsa World File