Inhofe “Scared The Crap Out Of” Airport Workers

FAA tapes: Senator intentionally landed plane on closed runway

Cary Grant

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Senator Inhofe Report

APRIL 13–Newly released Federal Aviation Administration documents and audiotapes shed a scary new light on a bizarre incident late last year during which U.S. Senator James Inhofe landed his Cessna on a closed runway at a south Texas airport, scattering construction workers who ran for their lives as the politician’s plane hopscotched over them and six vehicles.
The FAA material, provided in response to a TSG Freedom of Information Act request, details how Inhofe, 76, chose to land on the main runway at the Cameron County Airport on October 21 despite being aware that it was closed and had a large ‘X’ on its threshold.
The politician, the FAA investigation determined, “still elected to land avoiding the men and the equipment on the runway.” In a bid to avoid “legal enforcement action,” Inhofe, who has a commercial pilot’s license, agreed to “complete a program of remedial training,” according to an FAA letter sent in January to Inhofe, a third-term Republican senator from Oklahoma. Inhofe is pictured at right.

Shortly after Inhofe landed, Sidney Boyd, who was supervising construction on the closed runway, called the FAA to report that Inhofe’s plane, a twin-engine six-seater, initially touched down on the runway and then “‘sky hopped’ over the six vehicles and personnel working on the runway, and then landed.”
During the call, which was recorded by the FAA, Boyd said Inhofe’s antics “scared the crap out of” workers, adding that the Cessna “damn near hit” a red truck. Referring to the vehicle’s driver, Boyd added, “I think he actually wet his britches, he was scared to death. I mean, hell, he started trying to head for the side of the runway. The pilot could see him, or he should have been able to, he was right on him.”
Boyd also said that Inhofe showed little contrition following the close call. “He come over here and started being like, ‘What the hell is this? I was supposed to have unlimited airspace.'”

During a conversation with a second FAA representative, Boyd said, “As much work as I do on airports and runways, it’s the first time I’ve ever had this happen.” Inhofe, he added, “knew the runway was closed…he started to land on the north end, he just went right over a huge yellow ‘X’ and he was coming down right in the middle of us, and he finally, somebody noticed us waving at him I guess.”
“He sky hopped over us,” said Boyd. “He was determined to land on that runway come hell or high water evidently.” He added, “I’m still shaking…I was in the middle of the runway, I headed for high country.”

In a recorded conversation with Lee Williams, an FAA quality assurance specialist, airport manager Marshall Reece tore into Inhofe’s piloting. “I’ve got over 50 years flying, three tours of Vietnam,” Reece said, “and I can assure you I have never seen such a reckless disregard for human life in my life.” He then added, “Something needs to be done. This guy is famous for these violations.”

FAA records indicate that while Inhofe has landed at the Port Isabel airport on more than five occasions, he had not been the subject of prior enforcement actions. When questioned by FAA investigators if there had been any distractions in the cockpit before he landed on the closed runway, Inhofe “did volunteer that he was showing a new hire employee seated in the right seat how the technology of the cockpit instrumentation worked.”
Another recording captured a transmission from an air traffic controller who offered a concise account of Inhofe’s antics flying his 1978 Cessna (tail number N115EA): “N115 Echo Alpha landed right in the middle of them doing their work on runway 1331 and damn near killed somebody out there.”
In a statement today, Inhofe said, “This is an old story, and the FAA and I have long consider the matter closed.” Noting that his “dealings with the FAA did not constitute an admission nor an adjudication of a violation,” Inhofe added, “I have completed the program required by the FAA, and this matter is over.” (5 pages)
Senator Inhofe Report

Inhofe “Scared The Crap Out Of” Airport Workers


FAA tapes: Senator intentionally landed plane on closed runway

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