Sen James Inhofe (R, OK) landed on a closed runway at Cameron County Airport in Port Isabel, Texas on October 21, 2010.The runway was closed because there were workers and equipment doing repair work on it.
How can a pilot tell if a runway is closed? There are several ways. First, as part of preflight planning the pilot should check Notices to Airman (NOTAMs). In the old days (about 10 years ago) pilots would call or visit a Flight Service Station to get NOTAMs and other information related to the flight. Now you can get preflight information, including NOTAMs, from a variety of websites, the FAA-sponsored online flight planning services (www.duat.com and www.duats.com), or even on a smartphone or iPad using a service like Foreflight.
Second, there was a big “X” painted on the end of the runway. It should have been visible on approach to landing, indicating the runway was closed. Finally, there were people and equipment on the runway, which again should have been visible.
So what kind of enforcement action was taken against Sen. Inhofe in this case? He was required to get 4 hours of remedial ground school training and 3 hours of flight training. That seems to be fairly lenient considering the recklessness of his actions, but I do not know how the FAA normally handles these things, so I cannot say for sure.
I don’t think I would want to fly with him though.