EAA, AOPA team to push for driver’s license medical

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) plan to ask for an exemption to allow pilots who fly recreationally to use the driver’s license medical standard currently available only to sport pilots.

Delivering the keynote address on the final day of the AOPA Aviation Summit, the presidents of AOPA and EAA, Craig Fuller and Rod Hightower, said the two groups are working together to finalize a request to create the exemption. As part of the process, the groups are proposing that pilots be required to complete a course on aeromedical factors and self-certification.

“We have more than five years’ experience now with the Sport Pilot certificate and the driver’s license medical standard,” said Hightower. “In that time, we have not had a single medical incapacitation accident. The standard works.”

“Furthermore, our petition would enhance safety by requiring initial and recurrent training about health awareness and medical self-certification for any pilot choosing to use the driver’s license standard,” added Fuller. “It will provide data that can be used to continually refine and evaluate the effectiveness of the standard.”

EAA and AOPA plan to file their request for exemption after the first of the year. Under the proposed exemption, pilots holding recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificates who only fly recreationally could use the same driver’s license medical self-certification standard currently available to sport pilots.

In addition to holding a driver’s license as proof of adequate health, a pilot would also be required to participate in a recurring online education program that would reinforce and expand a pilot’s understanding of aeromedical factors and self-certification requirements. EAA and AOPA officials say they believe the education program, developed by the Air Safety Institute in consultation with AOPA’s Board of Aeromedical Advisors and EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, would provide an equivalent level of safety as a third class medical.

As envisioned, the exemption would be limited by aircraft size and type of operations — for example, a single engine aircraft, with 180 hp or less, four seats, and fixed gear and operations limited to day, VFR, with one passenger. That would greatly expand the number of aircraft a pilot might fly while operating under a driver’s license medical standard, officials say.

EAA and AOPA estimate that the exemption could save pilots who currently fly with medical certificates nearly $250 million over 10 years, and save the federal government $11 million over the same period.

EAA and AOPA officials say they believe the exemption they plan to request is the next logical step in the journey begun when the FAA permitted sport pilots to use the driver’s license medical standard. Further, the associations believe the exemption will maintain or enhance aviation safety by improving knowledge and awareness of aeromedical factors through recurrent education for all pilots utilizing the exemption, and by encouraging pilots to continue flying familiar aircraft.



  1. Mark Murray says

    Wartofsky is correct. The EAA and AOPA backed off way too much. If they think that 6,000 lbs is too heavy then what about 4,000 lbs, and up to 310 horse power, which would include C-206s, PA-32s and SR22s. We, as well, should be looking for a positive economic result. These airplanes are made in the USA. As for one passenger, it only make sense to make it at least three. The provisions for single engine, fixed gear, day VFR are probably reasonable.

  2. J. S. Tomlin says

    What is wrong with the proposal already put forth. This is
    the one that really got the ball rolling anyway. The EAA and AOPA just need to endorse
    this proposal and life would be simpler for everyone.

    May, 6, 2009 – AMENDED & FINAL

    Proposed Rulemaking: To amend FAA’s 3rd Class medical
    (limited to private pilot, non-commercial, not-for-hire) to include the
    following: “A valid driver’s license is required to pilot any aircraft,” and “A
    3rd Class Medical is only required for operation of aircraft heavier than (an
    automobile) 6,000 lbs max gross weight.”

    FAA DOCKET FAA 2009-0481





    6,000 LBS



  3. JW says

    I completely agree with continuing to streamline our overburdened system that we currently operate under changing away from FAA medical certificates one step at a time.   Recreational pilots fly substantially fewer hours per year and are more apt to have problems due to piloting errors and not medical issues.  However, the medical standards required for commercial flights should be maintained.

  4. DDan375678 says

    I believe this makes sense in helping to renvigorate general aviation. This will be the best answer to bringing people back to the airport to enjoy their hobby and share it with others. It is very discouraging to be able to maintaine a very stressful job and then be shut out of the only relaxation that a person has; taking a spouse or friend for a  short hop for that $100 hamburger and enjoy the freedom of flight and just enjoying the beautiful scenry.

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