Vertical Aviation International (VAI) mourns the passing of former Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a distinguished public servant and staunch advocate for general aviation, who flew west on Jul. 9.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, 2018.

Inhofe’s passion for aviation defined both his personal and professional life. His advocacy for general aviation focused on improving airport infrastructure, enhancing safety measures, and expanding access to aviation education and opportunities.

“Sen. Inhofe was a true champion of general aviation, and his absence will be deeply felt,” says James Viola, president and CEO of VAI. “On behalf of the vertical flight community, we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Kay, and their four children—thank you for sharing him with us. We are grateful for his dedication to advancing our industry.”

Inhofe’s tenure in the US Senate, from 1994 until his retirement in 2023, was marked by significant contributions to aviation legislation. As a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus and a pilot himself, he brought unique insight to congressional debates and authored crucial bills such as the 2012 Pilot’s Bill of Rights and the 2021 RETAIN (Recognizing and Ensuring Taxpayer Access to Infrastructure Necessary for) GPS and Satellite Communications Act. These bills addressed critical issues affecting aviation infrastructure and navigation systems, leaving a lasting impact on the industry.

Sen. Inhofe announces the introduction of the RETAIN GPS and Satellite Communications Act on Jun. 23, 2021. Behind him are VAI President and CEO James Viola and then–VAI Chair Stacy Sheard.

“We valued Sen. Inhofe’s partnership on initiatives like the RETAIN GPS Act, where his deep understanding of aviation challenges was invaluable,” says Viola. “His legacy of public service and advocacy for aviation safety and growth will endure.”

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