No medical required

Is this country great or what?

I can rent a 30-foot-long motorhome, with no prior large vehicle experience, load it with six of my friends and family, and plow on down the road.

The company website is filled with ways to maximize the enjoyment of the rental, and very little about safety and regulation. In fact, the renter’s resource page lists more than 50 questions, and I found just three related to safety or licensing.

Q: “Do I need a special drivers license to drive a motorhome?” Which, I thought, had an interesting answer.

A: “All you need is to be 25 years of age or older and possess a valid driver’s license and a major credit card. No special endorsement is needed. Temporary licenses are not accepted. Authorized operators 21-24 years of age may drive a motorhome subject to $25/day fee. In some instances credit and employment references or a foreign passport are required prior to rental and will be verified. All drivers must be present, listed on and sign the Rental Agreement and will be bound by Terms and Conditions of the Rental Agreement at vehicle pick up.”

Q: “Is it difficult to drive a motorhome?”

A: “Motorhomes handle much like a car, especially the “C“ class, which has a van chassis.”

Q: “Is there a limit to how many people can ride in the motorhome?”

A: Suffice it to say that Cruise America recommends (not requires) a renter “never exceed the maximum capacity as posted in the actual vehicle you will be using.”

Best of all…no medical required.

If enjoying the RV-lifestyle isn’t your thing, how about something water-based?

A Bayliner 335 Cruiser is nearly 33 feet long, weighs about 12,000 pounds and has a capacity of 12 people. Pricing starts at $160,000, but if you’ve got the cash, you can be on the water pretty quickly.

I asked a family friend, who for years transported large ocean-going vessels up and down the west coast for clients, if there are any licensing or medical requirements for a personally operated boat. “Nope. Not a one.”

He did mention that some marinas or moorage locations will have their own requirements. So, it would appear, if you can get it started and away from the dock, you can pilot it.

Best of all…no medical required.

Of course, we are all familiar with the most common mode of motorized transit in this country, the automobile. This mode comes in many sizes and flavors. Two of the most popular are the passenger car and the light truck, with tens of millions of variants on the road daily.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System, there were 43,945 vehicles involved in fatal accidents in 2011. “Passenger cars” accounted for 17,442 (39.7%) and “light trucks” accounted for 16,740 (38.1%).

I can, and do, fly into airports all over the country, walk up a car rental counter and drive out moments later in a vehicle unlike my truck at home, into an area I’m unfamiliar with, so long as my credit card works and my drivers license is unexpired.

Best of all…no medical required.

But heaven forbid I consider operating a 1946 Piper J-3 Cub, carrying 12 gallons of fuel, seating for two, and a top speed 80 mph, downhill, without a valid 3rd class medical I received four years ago (at 38 years of age).

Does anyone else see any inconsistencies?

Don’t misunderstand me: I’m in no way advocating for a medical exam to privately operate a motorhome, boat or automobile. A medical exam will not make any of these modes of travel safer, just like flying.

Just something to ponder. And thankfully, we can ponder while camping, boating or driving…no medical required.


  1. Mike says

    We in aviation have been wringing our hands for some time now pondering, discussing, and debating why aviation, and GA in particular, is declining – and what we can do to reverse this trend.

    May I submit that the (needless) 3rd Class Medical has been as much, or perhaps more, responsible for such as high fuel prices.

  2. Leonard Nolden says

    Be careful what you ask for. A few years ago a friend of mine complaned about his Real Estate Taxs, saying one of his neighbors had more than he and was paying less tax’s. The appraiser came out and said “yes, thank you so much for making us aware of this problem”,and promptly raised both their tax’s.

  3. says

    The original medical was issued by the us army to qualify the pilots flying mail in open cockpit aircraft, because they were all considered military reserve.

    In other words, it has has no relevance for about 100 years.

    To compromise with reality, as AOPA proposed, is to leave the absurd in place, only just a little bit less of it.

    The only way to compel a change is to get the congressionals to pass legislation telling FAA to stop. The FAA by itself will never let go, even under sequestration. To let go would be to admit all the efforts to date have been pointless.

    Use sequestration and congressional pressure to legislatively command FAA to stop. Anything less will go nowhere.

    As you may recall I tried, by filing such a petition. As soon as FAA got their budget approved they denied the request on the basis “I had failed to demonstrate any safety need for getting rid of the 3rd class.”

    I should have responded, “FAA never demonstrated any safety benefit in the first place.”

    Form a petition and take it to the congressional ga caucus. Sam graves (r .mo) will be receptive.


  4. Sarah Ashmore says

    As with all things related to government control of aviation (and just about anything else), once a control has been established and a beurocracy set up it will take on a life all its own and become almost industructable. It is usually the beurocracy that you are trying to dismantle which has to approve such an action and have you ever heard of a government beurocrat volonteering to be made surplus ? In the early days of aviation it was believed that the unnatural act of flying required the best of medical and physical condition. Why the first flight attendants were even required to be nurses in order to aid passengers in coping with the stress of the flying environment. Today we know that that was all nonsense for the most part but try to eliminate the burden of proving unreasonably near perfect physical condition and you will hit a stonewall. Not even a 1st class medical is a garantee as I remember cases of airline pilots becoming incompacitapted or even dead in flight.

  5. Dick Russell says

    My post of today’s date, 1111 DST, should have said “50” years of flying experience, NOT “5”-!

  6. Dick Russell says

    It just seems to me, a GA pilot for over 50 years, the way to stimulate General Aviation is not to build & sell LSA that cost over $160k, but to allow folks to self certify to fly their old ‘certified’ airplanes provided they do not conduct commercial operations. Most of the folks I know of are we old timers that have been around GA for years and merely want to continue to experience the thrill of flying and share the same with new folks when we are gone-!

  7. Dick Russell says

    Right on, Ben, use the power of the pen and press to illuminate these issues to the general aviation flying public: someone once said that the FAA Mission is not happy until you are unhappy-!

  8. RudyH says

    And Now I will be different…again…..we aviators are not docs……so simply make the 3rd class med valid for the under 45 year olds for sayyy….5 years AND allow any gen practitioners (to chop the crap out of the exorbitant fees now charged) to use more general med standards to clear us to fly. THUS we have the FAA reasonably happy, some docs still make some money, and the aviators continue to legally fly at a realized cost savings. Oh yeah….those aforementioned vehicles?…..license those operators too with a routine med checkout from THEIR docs….why not…it’s routine health and wellness…. Ben…..We Are Not Docs…

  9. says

    Good point. We used to call it “J.J.” Job justification. The numbers speak for themselves. There is NO reason for the third class medical. The whole concept keeps some over-paid underworked, desk jockey employed. Come to think of it, isn’t that what most of the FAA and Federal government is.

  10. Richard says

    I would love to know why it takes so long to get a medical when someone has had cancer? Two guys at our airport had and took treatments for cancer with positive results. No more cancer. In both cases, it took them over 6 months to get approval from the FAA Wizards in Oklahoma City to approve them for medicals. They just keep coming back wanting more and more info even about stuff that had nothing to do with the cancer. Both finally got the medicals but have to submit more info 12 months after they took thye physicals(6 months after approval) or the physical is no l,onger good. My question is: How many people have you ever heard of that dropped dead suddenly from cancer? The idiots in the FAA are completely out of control as are many federal bureaucracies.

    • Dick Russell says

      I did a FOIA once because I became so frustrated with CAMI, and the Special Issuance Process; would you believe only 6 of the staff had a “license to practice”, otherwise known as a means to work and serve the public as a “certified” doctor. In the case of cardiology issues, the CAMI folks outsource the medical package submitted for a Special Issuance because they have NO ONE on their staff with a degree in cardiology or otherwise is a practicing cardiologist. Thence, “why” does the airman have to see his licensed cardiologist t submit all the necessary paperwork for his package to be subsequently sent to this group of cardiologists that, then, make a recommendation to the FAA/CAMI bureaucrats to, in turn, issue a Special Issuance Medical Certificate, which, oh by the way, probably expires within six months after the airman in question has complied with the FAA/CAMI bureaucrats. Would it not make more sense and save everyone involved much aggravation and costs IF ONLY the FAA/CAMI bureaucrats would accept the documentation submitted by the airman from his/her Licensed Cardiologist? Who best knows the medical attributes of the subject airman but his physician? To me, the FAA HQS could dissolve CAMI, out source the Special Issuance process for cardiology related issues to licensed Physicians operating in the private sector that otherwise specialize in cardiology on a daily basis?

  11. Glenn Darr says

    Great post. Since there are far few airplanes than motorhomes and boats, it is much easier to keep track of the airplanes. It would be nice to do away with the 3rd class medical, but I certainly don’t count on it happening anytime in the forseeable future.

    • says

      True that. There is no room in the Surveillance State for people who have the freedonm to go quickly and undetectably whenever and wherever they like.

  12. John Wesley says

    Just watch, the day is coming when you will not be able to do any of these things without the proper paperwork, Big Brother and the Womb to Tomb mindset just has not caught up to them yet.

  13. Gary says

    To me it is very simple; there should be no medical required, other than a driver’s license, for the operation of a non commercial use aircraft. This sillines about under 180 horspower etc, has just been a way to appease those that feel that there should be restrictions.

    Gary W. Fisher, OD
    Sigma Pharmaceuticals

  14. Dale F. Doelling says


    Sometimes it seems that the sole purpose of government is to find inexplicable ways to drain as much money from our pockets as it can. I truly believe that they have people that are put into rooms with the sole purpose of thinking up new ways to fleece the American people.

    Thanks for shedding some light on this subject.


    Dale F. Doelling, CEO
    Secure Future Financial Corp.
    Sebastian, FL

  15. Tom Hartley says

    Thanks very much for your efforts in this area and please keep up the good work on this subject matter. I too am appalled at the inconsistencies and obvious (to those that have looked at this carefully) over reach by the FAA which must be viewed as nothing more than their giving an “appearance” of safety. Following my heart attack many years ago, I have been required to take more tests than a person younger than myself who doesn’t have to take any heart related medical tests but who could have his/her first heart attack at any moment. The idea that the FAA is preventing “public endangerment” is way over the top and just simply justifies their existence in light of a fear based thinking public that doesn’t understand that there is acceptable risk to everything that we do in life. If you look at simply the odds of something happening it is interesting. If someone in general aviation flys a 100 hours a year that’s only 1% of the time available that the pilot is in the aircraft (and even less than that in the air when you consider taxi/run-up time) (100/8760 total hours in a year). If the pilot was going to become incapacitated by heart failure then there is a very slim chance that it will be while in the airplane. Then there is the only slight risk that the airplane would hit anyone anyway. The issue here is what is acceptable “risk” but the government can use ANY risk as an excuse to implement a rule of practice or regulation and it’s easy to justify this to the gullible public that can only imagine airplanes falling out of the sky. Thanks again.

  16. Jscott says

    OK, I’ll be the first to say it. Kind of a bad example since the J-3 qualifies as light sport and can be flown without a medical. But I do agree 100% with the point you’re making about how silly it is to continue with the third class medicals.

    • Richard says

      I was going to say the same thing, Jscott. How about using an Ercoupe as an example where the “CD” model doesn’t require a medical but the “D” model does even though they both use the same engine and except for a few pounds are identical. The Cessna 120, 140, and 150 are good examples also.

  17. Greg W says

    Great idea Ben, a medical for renting a motorhome!, of course that is a requirement for the CDL that should be required ( if it were this would be a good direct comparison). The problem is not the 3rd class medical, that is an annoyance that cost about the same as a few hours of rental. The big discrepancy is the license requirement. We cannot and should not eliminate the aircraft license, we could however greatly reduce the cost of it. The “Open Airplane” plan for universal rental check-outs will be a great step forward in availability as well. Bare in mind that the big cost is the certificate its’ self and then the constant rental check-out and rental currency requirements. These are driven by insurance company liability concerns.

  18. Rich says

    I have been saying this about motorhomes and boats for years……..
    In my dreams you can do this in a light, simple aircraft.

  19. Otto Keesling says

    A third class is self certifying to start with. When is the FAA going to eleminate the requirement. It would be a shot in the arm for General Aviation. So just do it. Don’t complicate it like AOPA suggests. How many are flying now without a physical?

  20. Dick Russell says

    Well, since you mentioned it, are you aware that there are commercial operators of balloons and gliders that “self certify” that they are fit to fly and yet are not required to obtain, at major expense, a medical certificate from a Designated Medical examiner! And, they, are indeed commercial operators since they “charge for their services” and yet do NOT need , or are NOT required to be certified to fly passengers for hire, consistent with the terms in the FAR regarding ‘commerce operations’. It seems to follow, then, that if I am only flying for pleasure, then I should only be required to “self certify” as glider pilots or balloon pilots, and NOT be required to obtain certification from a medical examiner since I am not conducting commercial operations. Seems some sort of hypocrisy to me!

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