PORT ISABEL, Texas -- Federal Aviation Administration documents and audiotapes released to thesmokinggun.com provide details about an incident last fall in which Senator James Inhofe landed on a closed runway.
The FAA released the material in response to a TSG Freedom of Information Act request.
It contains details on the investigation into how Inhofe landed on the main runway at the Cameron County Airport on October 21, 2010.
The runway had a large ‘X' on it, an internationally recognized symbol in the aviation community for a closed runway.
As thesmokinggun.com reports, the investigation determined that Inhofe "still elected to land avoiding the men and the equipment on the runway."
The report also details how Inhofe avoided more serious consequences, by agreeing to complete "remedial training," which in this case was four hours of ground school and three hours of flight training.
The FAA sent a letter to Inhofe in January acknowledging that he had completed the training and notifying him that he would not face any more punishment. The FAA said the letter will stay in Inhofe's file for two years after which it will be expunged.
The letter also says it is "neither an admission nor an adjudication of a violation."The report also includes recordings of phone calls made by the construction workers who were on the runway when Inhofe landed. They describe how Inhofe's plane touched down on the runway then "'sky hopped' over the six vehicles and personnel on the runway, and then landed."
The report includes a recorded conversation with the construction crew supervisor.
Sidney Boyd,Construction Supervisor: "He just started to land, jumped up, and went right over him and landed right behind him."
Lee Williams, FAA Quality Assurance Specialist: "Okay."
Sidney Boyd,Construction Supervisor: "He was gonna...he was determined to land on that runway come hell or high water, evidently."
One caller told the FAA the incident "scared the crap out of" workers, and singled out the driver of one of the vehicles who was very frightened, saying "I think he actually wet his britches."
According to the FAA, the pilot initially told investigators that there were no distractions in the cockpit at the time, but later volunteered that he was showing a new hire sitting in the right seat how the cockpit instrumentation worked.
He also told the FAA that his secretary had called the airport the day before and the person she spoke with did not mention the runway being closed.
Senator Inhofe has long been recognized as an accomplished pilot. But other witnesses, according to the Smoking Gun report, say he should have known not to land on that runway.
"I got over fifty years flying, three tours in Vietnam, 23,000 hours, I can assure you I have never seen such a reckless disregard for human life in my life," Marshall Reece, airport manager, said.
The report also says Senator Inhofe told the FAA he was showing a new employee how the instruments in the cockpit worked. The FAA said the letter will stay in Senator Inhofe's file for two years after which it will be expunged.
Senator Inhofe issued a statement saying the matter has been resolved.
"This is an old story, and the FAA and I have long considered the matter closed. As noted in the letter from FAA aviation safety inspector, Robert O'Keefe, my dealings with the FAA did not constitute an admission nor an adjudication of a violation. I was cleared to approach by the FAA prior to landing on the runway. I have completed the program required by the FAA, and this matter is over."