Inhofe amendment protects volunteer pilots

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization bill to extend liability protection to volunteer pilots, volunteer pilot organizations (VPO), such as the Air Charity Network (ACN) and Angel Flight Oklahoma, and institutions that refer patients to volunteer pilot organizations, like the American Red Cross, as they conduct their life-saving missions.

“Volunteer pilot organizations organize volunteer pilots to provide free air transportation for people in need of specialized medical treatment at distant locations due to family, community or national crises,” Inhofe said. “These pilots and charitable organizations provide invaluable service, yet due to a loophole in the law, are subject to frivolous, costly lawsuits.” 

Inhofe’s legislation will amend the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 to include liability protection for volunteer pilots and the boards, paid staff and non-flying volunteers of non-profit volunteer pilot organizations and referring institutions. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 currently provides liability protection for volunteers across various sectors but does not cover volunteers who operate aircraft nor does it cover the associated non-profits and referring institutions.
To emphasize the importance of these organizations, Inhofe cited the recent role of VPOs in crises:  “Following the September 11th terrorist attacks, ACN aircraft were the first to be approved to fly-in disaster-response teams and supplies. Similarly, in 2005, ACN pilots flew over 2,600 missions after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, reuniting families torn apart by the disaster and relocating them to safe housing.
“In Oklahoma, volunteer pilots routinely transport patients from rural parts of the state to larger hospitals, like M.D. Anderson in Houston and Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston, where they can get specialized, life-saving care.
 “Congress needs to ensure that these volunteer pilots and the organizations for which they fly are exempt from liability and able to continue providing this important service.”
Inhofe previously introduced this measure as a stand-alone bill.