FAA will not pursue legal action against Inhofe
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
3/19/11 at 10:07 AM
World Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration agreed not to pursue legal action against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe for landing on a closed runway and instead allow the Oklahoma Republican to take remedial training program.
Several weeks ago, the FAA issued a letter to Inhofe describing that agreement and the remedial training he completed.
Aviation safety inspector Robert O'Keefe wrote that the Jan. 4 letter will be a matter of record for two years and then be expunged.
"This letter constitutes neither an admission nor an adjudication of a violation,'' O'Keefe wrote.
"We appreciate your cooperation in this matter and expect your full compliance with the regulations in the future.''
O'Keefe's letter states that the senator was ''involved in an incident during a landing on a closed runway at Port Isabel, Texas, and you were advised that such an operation is contrary to … the Code of Federal Regulations.''
In an interview during which he shared the letter's contents, Inhofe, who remains convinced he did nothing wrong, said he considers the matter closed.
He also revealed plans to speak about the incident on the Senate floor Tuesday and introduce legislation later this year to ensure general aviation pilots who are accused of wrongdoing in the future can receive certain information.
That includes documentation of any so-called NOTAM (Notice to Airman) on such matters as closed runways and the recordings between pilots and control towers.
"I was treated very courteously,'' Inhofe said of the FAA's review of the Oct. 21 incident.
"I often wonder though if I had not been a United States senator … somebody who is just a pilot would have gone through this and if they were not able to get the two documents that I want, they could have ended up losing their license.''
Inhofe said he was given a choice: either face possible legal action or complete the remedial training program.
"I elected the remedial training program because that is something that is very easy to do,'' he said, explaining he took the training in Tulsa from a young man he had trained to fly.
A veteran pilot with a commercial rating and more than 50 years of flying experience, Inhofe again spoke of his actions prior to his landing, which included conservations he had with air controllers.
"Then, approximately three miles on final approach to Cameron County, they said you are cleared for, that's the words I want to get exact, cleared to approach at Cameron County,'' he said.
Inhofe said he did not realize there was work being done on the runway until after he had lowered his gear and flaps on his plane.
"There is a point of no return,'' he said, explaining how he ended up landing on the second half of that runway.
One eye witness, a job superintendent on the runway project, earlier had described the incident as scary and one that endangered both the workers and passengers on Inhofe's plane.