If you’ve been following the general aviation industry’s efforts to secure federal legislation deregulating FAA medical certification, you know it’s been a long, frustrating process (though not nearly as long or frustrating as some of the industry’s other legislative efforts). The legislation is S. 571, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2), introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). A companion bill, H.R. 1086, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.).
In November, S. 571 was the subject of a mark-up session, where a committee considers a bill and amendments to it. That part of the legislative process is mostly complete, but the committee failed to approve the measure or forward it to the Senate floor for a vote. The full Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has scheduled December 9 as the date it will try to complete its work on PBOR2. That is well after this issue will be on its way to you but, perhaps by the time you read this, real progress toward enactment may have been made during the year-end Congressional rush to pass bills with substantial support.
The day after November’s mark-up session, the New York Times published an op-ed column by Gail Collins, “A Holiday Treat From Congress.” The column essentially mocked PBOR2 and took some easy shots at Sen. Inhofe, the bill’s chief sponsor. Although I tend to enjoy Ms. Collins’ columns, this one was rather predictable in its failure to consider the real issues behind PBOR2 and its widespread support. The column is a good example of basing an opinion on feelings rather than facts. One passage in it, however, still rankles: “…there are hundreds of thousands of private pilots, many of them rather wealthy.” Where to begin?
I could start by pointing out other silly columns by Ms. Collins, or that she herself probably is “rather wealthy” compared to me. Which would accept her framing that wealth per se somehow is wrong. To point out that many golfers, boaters, SUV owners and New York City residents also are “rather wealthy” but don’t own airplanes is the same thing.
Ultimately, I would simply point out that neither I nor the vast majority of pilots and aircraft owners with whom I’m familiar are “rather wealthy.” We may fly, and we may own an airplane, and that airplane may cost several thousand dollars, but it’s at the expense of other things: My newest car is a 2001 model, I don’t have a boat, an RV or an apartment in New York, and I haven’t seen a Broadway show since the 1980s. Flying and owning a personal airplane is a choice, like these other things. By themselves, they’re neither good nor bad. Owning an SUV or RV is rarely equated with wealth. Why the double-standard?