Bye Bye 3rd class medical


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


  1. Donald Fatout says

    FALSE REPORTING TO AN FAAA MEDICAL CENTER BY AN Airport Manager – proven false, too, by a police report, and complaining to the DOT gets no response from the DOT.

    • Tommy King says

      I had a special issue medical for over 5 years, each year I did a stress test and met the requirements and each year seemed to get better (according to my Doctor). Two years ago when I submitted my paperwork for special issue 3rd class, the FAA said I no longer qualified for special issue. Nothing had changed for but had got better for the 5 years they issued the medial. Go figure, I feel your pain when trying to deal with the FAA.

  2. says

    In reading the different comments concerning the Class III Medical and dealing specifically with the item concerning having a Pacemaker, I researched further and found the FAA’s guidelines of pursuing a Class III with a Pacemaker involved. While ALL of this certainly addresses the total beaurocratic BS involved in dealing with the FAA, I found that by jumping through “the Hoops” required by the FAA, that there does seem to be a possible “Light at the end of the tunnel!” in certain situations. The link that I found is listed below. I too am an advocate of repealing the Class III as a “Requirement” but until that happens, we’re going to have to indeed “Jump through those hoops” if we are to have any hope at all of being able to once again enjoy all of the benefits of being able to fly. Hope this helps and gives some kind of hope!

  3. Tommy King says

    I battled the FAA Special Issue requirements for almost 10 years and always met all the requirements for the special issue, except now, nothing has changed with my heart condition (it is even better now than 10 years ago) but the FAA has seen it necessary to not renew my special issue. The Congress and lawmakers need to do away with the 3rd class medical. Let your local doctors and each person decided if we are physically able to drive or fly our planes.

  4. Emily Dashwood says

    Since we self-certify every time we fly, it seems that some sort of update to current medical policies might be a good idea.

    And it is interesting how Sport Pilot turned out to be something else entirely, primarily attracting older pilots instead of being a gateway to a private pilot license. It might have unintentionally highlighted a demand that hadn’t been noticed before.

  5. says

    I agree. My plane has a stall speed just a few MPH higher than allowed, otherwise, it would qualify and I would never have to go through the medical process again. I had to take more training to get my certificate than do the LSA people, but I can’t fly without a medical and they can. Sorry, can’t afford the price of an LSA aircraft, and when I can no longer pass the medical, I will just have to quit flying.

  6. Delvyn Rockwell says

    Why is there not a greater effort by AOPA and others to try to find and eliminate the waste and abuse in the present FAA system? And present it to congress. It seems like there is no effort on anyone’s part to get away from the states quoi. After reading some 50 or more comments to this problem in the AOPA NOW it seams like no one is listening to us (Pilots). Just for example there is numerous comments relating to saving money. Doing away with ramp inspections. How about not having these new photo ID pilot licenses? This alone is estimated to cost use about $250 dollars per-pilot. There will be a whole division just to handle this, not very realistic. One of the big ones is to get rid of the 3rd medical. You have a whole bureau of FAA officials reviewing and making judgments on whether a person with borderline hypertension should or should not fly. But in the mean time he/she could return to work driving a 155,000 pound ( 32 Wheel) Super Gravel Train down the road at 70 MPH. Sure glad that the bureau of transportation in Michigan dose not mind. Let get real. I think it would do us all a lot of good and save us a lot of money if we just stepped back and took a good look at the present system. Even the 111th congress controlled by the Democrats having the control of the presidency and congress could not come up with a solution to our present day problems. Please lets get serious here and not just throw money (we do not have) at this problem.

    • Emily Dashwood says

      In my opinion, AOPA looks after the higher dollar operators: Business aviation or those who spend a whole bunch of money on new aircraft.

      Try getting them to address issues like low CFI pay and the poor reputation lower time CFIs have to contend with. There’s no money in that, and AOPA is notably absent.

  7. Rudy H. says

    …..Still going to have a need for the ‘over 40 years of age’ Class III for the ‘Private’ and ANYBODY carrying non aviator passengers!! These here ‘stressed out life styles’ in the good ‘ole USA are not supporting good health in later years….just have the duration be for 4 years, that won’t break the bank…….rhh

  8. Howard Belzberg says

    As a physician and pilot I am in complete agreement that the 3rd class medical is simply a bureaucatic excercise without any evidence of benefit.
    I have been very disapointed by the lack of interest on the part of AOPA in addressing this issue, one that could significantly increase the active pilot and airplane owner population.
    When specifically asked, (at Sun n Fun open forum) Mr. Fuller tossed aside any interest in the issue with snide remarks about how most pilots support the 3rd class medical, an unbelievable position.

  9. says

    Hopefully, since the administration and congress is so interested in cutting costs and shrinking government the FAA will drop the Class III medical as their contribution to cutting costs … or they could just charge us a whopping fee to process it. I know which one I’m betting on.

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  11. Jerold Rogers says

    Once it has been determined a pacemake is needed for good heart health a pilot can be in good overall health once a pacemaker has been implanted. Would you rather I fly (sport pilot) without my pacemaker? I think not.


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