LETTER TO THE EDITOR
I read your post article, “Bye, Bye 3rd Class Medical,” and was very interested to learn that the FAA, or at least some individual within that organization, was actually reasonable enough to consider this long overdue idea. I have my own horror stories about dealing with the FAA and their Aeromedical branch and am therefore glad to hear that there are steps being considered that just might relieve the volume of presentations put before this understaffed branch on a monthly basis.
It has, since the creation of the sport pilot regulations, seemed to me that the 3rd class medical requirements currently regulated by the FAA are skewed. For instance, an individual that wants to fly sport pilot can do so with his or her driver’s license as proof of medical fitness, however, if that same individual has been denied a medical certificate by the FAA for any reason, even if he or she still possesses a valid driver’s license, then that individual cannot fly sport pilot. I know people that have pacemakers and valid driver’s licenses that would technically qualify for a sport pilot certificate because they have never been turned down for an FAA medical certificate. I have never understood why these folks would be considered safe, yet someone in good physical condition with, say, diabetes is deemed to be not physically able to perform the duties of a pilot because they cannot qualify for an FAA medical certificate.
I have several older friends that have had medical problems such a stents installed in arteries, bypass surgery, etc., that are now in better health than they were before that procedure because it was a wake-up call that convinced them to eat right and exercise, yet they are either afraid or unable (money and time wise) to reapply for their medical under the Special Issuance rules. I have done it and let me tell you, it is very expensive (it costs me about $5,000 to $7,000 per year) and very time consuming (it takes about three months on average to comply with all the requirements) for me to keep my medical certificate current. In fact, it has long been my feeling that the FAA has figured that it can get rid of all the older pilots by simply making it too expensive for them to apply for their medical certificates.
The upshot is there are many pilots out there that are very competent and qualified that have simply thrown up their hands and surrendered to the FAA bureaucracy rather than attempt to fight for renewal of their medical certificates. This is a shame for several reasons: First, I find that the older pilots are more interested in flying aircraft than younger people today. I am not sure why that is and the only reason that makes any sense to me is that flying and flight have become so commonplace that it no longer has the aura or mystique that it once enjoyed. Either that or the fact that kids today can do it all from their computers with a flight simulator program and, therefore, don’t have the desire to go out in the world of reality and actually do it, and boy is that sad.
Additionally, these pilots could fly and contribute to the aviation community and desire to do so. I see no valid reason to limit them because they do not have unlimited time or resources. The FAA, with their current medical certification regulations, is losing a potential valuable segment of the flying public.
This proposition is a great idea. It relieves the pressure on the FAA’s Aeromedical branch and it allows pilots that should never been grounded to get back in the air. I mean, after all, if you let a person go five years between medical exams, it’s all pretty much a sham anyway, isn’t it?
DAVID GRAVES, via e-mail