U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe to Retire

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Photo via inhofe.senate.gov.

A pilot for more than 60 years, United States Senator James Mountain Inhofe (R, OK) announced last week that he will retire from politics five years earlier than originally intended, to be effective January 3, 2023. The 87-year-old former mayor of Tulsa (and former US Representative) holds a Flight Instructor certificate plus Commercial Pilot AMEL and ASES ratings, and famously used his Piper Aztec to crisscross the state during his successful 1994 campaign for the Senate.

Inhofe provided key support to GA and professional pilots at numerous critical junctures throughout his political career. AOPA described him as a “major force” behind passage of the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 and credited him as a leader in Congress in the fight against proposed ATC user fees.

Pilots may also remember that Senator Inhofe was a key figure in legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots to 65 from 60, and that he quickly introduced legislation to give pilots an appeal process in cases of emergency revocation of FAA medical certificates, when exactly that happened to one R. A. “Bob” Hoover under inexplicable circumstances. He also championed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights, both Parts I and II, and was a prime mover in the creation of Basic Med, which is an easier route to pilot medical certification for many pilots of typical small planes.

Inhofe is no stranger to controversy. In 2010, Inhofe landed on a closed runway in rural South Texas, causing workers there to scatter. No one was injured, but the FAA investigated Inhofe, ultimately letting him off with a slap on the wrist, a decision that angered many in the aviation community who claimed that Inhofe had gotten special treatment. Then, in 2016, the Senator from Oklahoma made a hard landing on a remote Oklahoma airport in very strong winds, his Harmon Rocket homebuilt plane veering off the runway. The state was under a severe thunderstorm watch at the time. No one was injured.

In 2013, Senator Inhofe’s son, Dr. Perry Inhofe, was killed in a new-to-him Mitsubishi MU-2 while returning to Oklahoma after receiving training to satisfy Special FAR No. 108, authored specifically for the MU-2 type. In its investigation, the NTSB could only conclude that Dr. Inhofe, 52, lost control of the MU-2 after shutting down and feathering the left engine. The Board could not determine why the engine had been shut down.

Senator Inhofe’s website proudly mentions the time in 1991, then a Representative, when he joined three other pilots to fly a Cessna 414 around the globe in a re-creation of the route taken by famous aviator and Oklahoma native son Wiley Post in 1931, when Post made the first global circumnavigation in a fixed-wing aircraft (a Graf Zeppelin airship had done it prior).

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