GA Pilot Protection Act good for growing pilot population

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, has the potential to significantly lower one of the barriers for prospective pilots, according to officials with the Helicopter Association International.

The General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (H.R. 3708), introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), and co-sponsored by four additional members of the House General Aviation Caucus, would direct the FAA to revise or issue new regulations that would allow pilots to fly aircraft up to six-place aircraft weighing less than 6,000 lbs. using the same driver’s license standard for medical certification that currently applies only to Sport Pilot certificate holders. The four additional co-sponsors are Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas).

“This bill addresses the advanced state of the general aviation operating environment, reduces cost for GA pilots, and recognizes the historical data which indicates medical incapacitation has not been a significant safety issue,” said Matt Zuccaro, president of the Helicopter Association International. “This legislation will promote more individuals pursuing helicopter pilot certification, which is good for our industry and our nation’s economy. We strongly support this legislation.”

The bill would give the FAA no more than 180 days from its enactment to change medical certification requirements so that a pilot flying an aircraft authorized to carry no more than six occupants and with a maximum certified takeoff weight of no more than 6,000 pounds would only need a valid state driver’s license as evidence of adequate health. The bill makes no distinction between fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

The pilot would be required to comply with any medical requirements associated with that license.

A pilot choosing to use the driver’s license medical certification standard would only be permitted to fly under visual flight rules (VFR), could not carry more than five passengers or fly for compensation, and would be required to remain at or below 14,000’ above sea level and below 250 knots airspeed. The pilot would also not be allowed to fly outside the United States (unless authorized by the country in which the flight would take place).

“Historically the FAA has taken an overly cautious approach to changing medical certification standards, and caution where safety’s concerned is a good thing,” concluded Zuccaro. “However we believe the time has come for the FAA to acknowledge that there is no significant data indicating that the driver’s license option will compromise safety in the general aviation community.

“Accordingly we appreciate Congressional General Aviation Caucus members sponsoring this legislative initiative directing the FAA to take action on this matter.”


  1. says

    Simple Question: If you were not a pilot and your friend and neighbor asked you to go flying, you would probably say yes, however when you were ready to get into the plane, the pilot friend said to you, “By the way, I just want to tell you that I do not have a medical certificate because of my diabetes, heart, liver, etc”. Would you still go for that ride? I’ll bet your wife would have a thing or two to say about that.

    This bill is the STUPIDEST thing I have ever read. Do you real pilots with non-health problems really say it’s okay to fly in the pattern with a type 1 diabetic or some one who has just recovered from a heart attack just last week. I think not.

    People ask asking WHY such a stupid bill and I would answer this way. I believe the Sports class builders are complaining because so many pilots are not buying aircraft any more is because of their health. They simply can’t pass a type 3 medical. I believe it’s MONEY. spelled, “$$$$$$$$$”. Has nothing to do with the crap they are telling everyone about the “WHY” for this bill. It’s totally “$$$$$”. Also this, anyone can go to Barnstormers and buy an airworthy plane that 20-30 or 40 years old and older for FAR less that a “Sport” plane that seems to all begin around $100,000 and goes up. I am sure there is alot of money on the table, wanting to buy the plane of their dreams and our government is willing to sell it to them if they only have a “drivers license?” We don’t drive a plane, we FLY IT!

    I vote a firm NO to this stupid bill. Safety should come first, not $$$ for taxes paid to the government.

    On a final note, I THINK IF THIS BILL COMES TO A PUBLIC VOTE, ONLY THE FEMALE POPULATION SHOULD VOTE. This would kill the bill forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Dennis Swenson

    • Jeff Boatright says

      Hi Dennis,

      Please show us your homework. Please show us any data supporting the supposition that the third class medical has had an impact on safety. There is now a large and growing dataset based on the Sport Pilot population. Thus, rather than arguing from authority (“It’s stupid because I say it’s stupid”), you now have the opportunity to test your “it’s stupid” hypothesis. Let us know what you find.

      Best regards,


    • James Harris says

      This lady really doesnt understand how many auto accidents happen yearly. The many many deaths that do occur are manly due to the group of people that do not consider a health program as part of driving an auto while on the other hand the people that fly feel constrained to participate in because it is a part of the flying motif. GOOD HEALTH MAKES GREAT PILOTS!!!! The pilot that watches his over all health will always be a safer and more conscientious human.
      The 3rd class medical is a farce and should not be considered anything more than a license to drive an airplpane within the regulations that are within the Protection Act. HOORAA

  2. Brian Lott says

    I was 56 last March when I had a heart attack. Following the obligatory six month healing and recovery period I scheduled the required Bruce Protocol Stress Test and began gathering the medical records required by the FAA for a Special Issuance Third Class Medical Certificate. I submitted the documentation which was delivered to them on November 6, 2013 and as of today, March 20, 2014 I am still waiting for their decision. That is 4 and 1/2 months and counting. No where else in our society is that level of service considered acceptable.

    The FAA website lists the required documentation that you must provide. In practice, they actually require far more documentation than they publish. For instance, I had to obtain DVDs of each of my two Catheterization procedures and a DVD of an Echocardiogram that was done the month after my heart attack. Even though they have the Operation Reports provided by the Cardiologist and a very detailed Cardio Evaluation that my Cardiologist had to prepare to their specifications, that is not enough. There are actually FAA employees being paid with our tax dollars watching our actual medical procedures on DVD! This is not only a waste of money but an invasion of my privacy.
    It is apparently not enough that I surpassed the FAA’s standards on the Bruce Protocol Stress Test, which are 9 minutes and 100% of your maximum predicted heart rate. I made it to 10 minutes and 29 seconds and achieved 109% of my maximum predicted heart rate.
    The significance of this is that if you just meet their standards, there is statistically less than a 1% chance that you will suffer a medical incapacitation during the next 12 months. Consequently they are willing (supposedly) to grant you 12 months of flying privileges retroactive to the date of your stress test. Clearly, with my test results , there is far less than the less than 1% statistical probability that I will suffer an incapacitation during the 12 months following my test. Still 4 and 1/2 months after receiving my application I remain grounded. Why?
    It is frustrating to know that my Cardiologist stated that he felt it was safe for me to resume flying six weeks after me heart attack. What is even more frustrating is that one week after my heart attack it was perfectly legal for me to hop in a car, truck, motorhome or on a motorcycle and travel on our Federal Interstate Highway System at 70 mph in close proximity to other citizens and their families in their vehicles without first having to go through any special medical testing or to supply even one piece of medical documentation to any Government Agency for review and approval. I could also jump in a motorboat and pilot it at 100 mph on a lake or offshore, again, without any review or approval by any Government Agency. BUT, to go for a ride in my airplane which takes off and lands at about 60 mph, well…oh my god….I have to endure a six month healing and recovery period and provide extensive medical documentation to someone in Oklahoma City…a Doctor who will never examine me or even see me…will decide whether or not I can ever fly my airplane again. This is nonsense and needs to stop!
    It is time for American citizens who are licensed pilots to be treated with the same rights that other American citizens have when it comes to the recreational use of their motorized vehicles. Could you imagine if the Department of Transportation attempted to impose this nonsense on the general driving and boating public? The general public would not tolerate it and neither should we.
    Don’t think for a minute that this isn’t your fight because you are healthy. My heart attack came with little warning and extremely subtle (you would overlook them too) warning signs. I never for a minute thought that my flying days would end when they did or the way they did. For more than a year I have been unable to fly as Pilot-in-command in my own airplane. I have had to hire a CFI to sit in the right front seat and sign my logbook at the end of each flight. otherwise it is illegal for me to fly and my aircraft insurance policy would be invalid. More often than not, a CFI is NOT AVAILABLE on good days when I want to fly. So guess what? My airplane sits parked and I don’t get to fly. Lots of fun and boy, doesn’t it add to safety to have a plane sitting little used and a pilot being unable to keep his skills current?!
    On more irony is this. I have a Glider rating so I am able to fly Gliders as Pilot-in-command. Thermalling in gliders is a far more physically demanding and strenuous activity than flying my airplane, however; I do not need a Medical Certificate to fly gliders…only airplanes!

    • Chuck Stone says

      Thanks you for that report on your pilot/medical situation. I am in the same boat with you, no medical due to health issues. I hardly agree this is not just our fight, but the current healthy pilots too. One never knows when a health issue will surface, and when is does and you loose your medical, then, and only then will fully understand how we feel to be told by the FAA you can’t fly a simple Cessna 172, but you can drive a car, truck or even a very large RV in the interstate highways. Makes no sense at all! Please do us and the others a big favor if you haven’t already, please send a copy of you post to each congressman, especially those already onboard. And for those you reading this post and have a medical, please do the same. We must stand together on this issue!

    • Mike says

      Very well stated, Brian.

      Your situation is quite similar to mine except I didn’t even have a heart attack, only had a stent placed in one leg. That was enough for the FAA to require the Bruce protocol stress test you describe to be issued a Special Issuance. Passed it every year, special letter from the cardiologist, etc. every year just as you describe. Also had to submit a letter from the vascular surgeon who put in the stent, he happens to be a pilot too. Both of these highly experienced and respected doctors stated over and over that the odds of me having a medical problem were no higher than anyone in the general population.

      I’ve already written my Congressman and both Senators urging them to support the bills eliminating the 3rd Class medical. Received relatively positive replies from 2 of the 3.

      • Chuck Stone says

        Thanks for taking time to contact your congressmen. We need other pilots to do the same.
        Semper fi

  3. Jerrel F says

    When it comes to regulations, I believe the FAA has become less about safety and more about bureaucracy. People would not have to fear medicals if they were reasonable. Any concern other than loss of conscienceness, cognition, or physical ability to fly the plane is irrelavent. And that should be within reason. Now, looking at sleep studies, I mean really, how many private pilots are going to go through that? The FAA has driven up the cost of flying to the point that few people will do it anyway.

    • Chuck Stone says

      Jerrel, I totally agree with you. I have a private pilot friend who like me uses C-PAP at night. In order for him to get a third class medical he had to demonstrate he could sit on the side of the clinic bedside starting at 10pm with no TV/radio and lights dimmed for eight straight hours and not nod off once if he was to pass. Plus he paid something like $1500 for the test out of his pocket, insurance will not cover elective tests. Plus he has no intention of flying at night, especially ALL night long! How insane is the FAA thinking!

  4. says

    I see many of you evoking the trite notion that this piece of legislation is promoting “Scud running”; however, the validity of this argument is complete circumspection. Stating that a bill or law promotes unlawful activity as an argument for not supporting said bill/law is like making the blanket statement that the 2nd Amendment promotes gun violence and murder. It is an absurd and childish notion. I, as a private pilot, support this bill 100% because I believe it will benefit a great many fellow pilots and General Aviation as a whole. If a person, an individual responsible for his/her own actions and accountable to self and law, should choose to “scud run” and engage in unsafe practices while exercising the privileges of a pilot’s license then said action is upon them solely and does not reflect GA, GA pilots or the content/liberties afforded by the Pilot Protection Act (H.R. 3708). I find it ludicrous that anyone would conclude or believe otherwise. You, as the pilot, have a choice to fly under a 3rd Class Medical certificate or without a medical, knowing that if you should so choose the latter, you will forfeit some privileges (ie having altitude, airspeed and Wx restrictions) I don’t believe that is a bad thing; however, I do believe that IFR flight, for those who are instrument rated and who will seek and acquire an instrument rating should be able to fly with the “driver’s license only” status if they have been properly trained… The same way certain flight distance, altitude, airspace and nighttime restrictions can be lifted for light sport pilots when they have received the proper training and endorsement from a qualified CFI/CFII in their logbook as prescribed by FAR 61.315. Irrespective of how we “feel” about H.R. 3708, we as pilot’s should support this Bill and see it through unto law for the sake of our fellow pilot’s. I will be calling my HD Representative and preemptively calling my senator as well despite it only being at committee level at the moment. Semper Fidelis

    • Mooney says

      In response to Aaron’s comenets, I suggest that scud running means different things to different pilots. As a commercial rated instrument pilot and former CFI, scud running to me means flying in VFR conditions that I personally wouldn’t do. The idea of of following a road with 5 miles visibility and ceiling of 1500, clearly VFR, is my version of scud running. Very legal but also leaving one with minimal margins. If you haven’t noticed, the frequency of cell towers continues to grow exponnetially. To me, these conditions are generally ideal for IFR flight. There is nothing better than and a precision approach when you are clear of the clouds and can see the runway at the outer marker. Why would one want to force a pilot into a less safe environment when the pilot posses the skills, training, certification and currency to operate in a safer manner. It is a poor arguement to say if you want to exercise your private priviledges, go get a medical. Aaron is missing the entire consequences of what the FAA is doing to the industry. I for one would upgrade my Mooney were it not for the certification requirements levied by the FAA which does so with zero emoricial justification. If there is a safer way to fly, don’t cut it off because Aaron and others believe in feel good regulation. Want to reduce accidents, dump the third class and add some annual dual flight training requirments such as airwork and emergency procedures. That will add to GA safety.

  5. Chuck Stone says

    I have flown my entire life from age 18 to now 68 and now no medical. It’s tough to be told by the FAA you can’t fly any more because you are physically unfit. But, I drive large trucks, cars, and my large boat without any physical difficulty. So, I ask does this make sense? As to Mr. Mooney’s comment about spending $12,000 on tests required by the FAA to re-instate, is still a gamble, their FAA doctors can look at the tests and still say no, and you are out the money! It’s almost a catch 22 situation. I agree with most of the posts here, I think we need to drop the IFR argument for now and lets all get behind this bill and get it passed. That means you need to do something. Call and or write you representatives and go on record in support of the bill!
    Semper fi

  6. KW says

    With a decade of Sport Pilots using the “driver’s license medical,” if there were a problem with the idea, we’d have seen it.

    It costs the FAA a lot of money to administer the medicals. It’s time to start letting them spend that money on better things.

  7. says

    I do now believe this bill will promote “skud running”. If someone would scud run, they will do it now. I will keep my flight medical certificate if this legistration were to go through so I will be able to exercise my instrument privlage. My wife on the other hand only flys our J5 Cub and does not hold an instrument rateing. Great news for her and more important, a student pilot will not need a flight physcial to begin training! This sounds like a great time to start writing your representatives and chant the thumbs up for this!

    • Mooney says

      An option regarding the elimination of IFR flight would be to permit IFR if the destination airport is forecast for VFR at arrival time. There is no reason that a certified and current instrument rated pilot would scud run today, there is simply no need as an IFR flight plan is the preferred option. This law change, which is fundamentally a good thing, may force a pilot into a bad situation.

      The medical certificate or lack thereof does not impact a qualified pilot in performing the required duties. If one is qualified to fly with an alternative to a Class III medical, then the pilot should be able to use the capabilities endorsed to the pilot.

      I think a major point is missed by Gregg. The uncertainty of the medical certification cast on our environment by the FAA is a major detriment to GA. I hope Greg never has to endure what many of us had to tolerate from the FAA. An advantage that we as persons enjoy is that we do not have to stick our hand in the fire to know that we will be burned. We can learn without enduring. Now, put yourself in position of having to spend $12K in medical testing required by the FAA, especially when your Board Certified cardilogist states in their professional judgement, the testing is unneeded. This drives people away from GA and happens today without an iota of justification rom the FAA. Put in place a reasonable self certification standards with a built in mechanism to make sure the FAA doesn’t gop off the deepend, again.

      If you want to reduce GA accidents, due something to improve flying skills. That will generate a fabulous ROI.

  8. John says

    It helps to see the FAA 3rd class medical in a larger perspective: In all of GA, there are roughly 450-500 fatalities per year. Of these, a tiny percent are due to medical impairment. Say 10%. That would be 45-50 deaths per year. That is in the same ballpark as the number of deaths due to lightning strikes or falling out of bed (literally). What other activity has a major federal bureaucracy policing that miniscule number of deaths? More die from boating accidents than all of GA, yet there is no medical requirement at all. 4500 per year die in motorcycle accidents, but no medical is required. 35,000 die in auto accidents, but no medical. It is obvious that the medical FAA certification requirement for GA is grossly out of proportion to the risks they supposedly address. Why are GA pilots subject to this absurdly over zealous bureaucracy, unlike any other activity ?

  9. Mooney says

    Great start!

    The concerns relate to no IFR. Many IFR rated pilots, as a matter of practice, file IFR for all flights, regardless of weather conditions. The intent is not to fly into solid IMC down to minimums. IFR is desirable, especially when the VFR conditions are less than CAVU. Nothing is better than a precision approach when you see the airport three miles away and you are decending through 1,000 feet AGL.

    In essence, the legislation promotes scud running, not a good practice. If the pilot is rated for IFR flight, and if health is not an issue, then IFR flight should be permitted. A current IFR pilot being forced to fly VFR when conditions are barely VFR can be an invitation for an accident. Perhaps someone with skills and access to the GA accident statitics can give some insight to scud running accidents. This is not a bone to be thrown to the FAA for forcing them to recoginize their private pilot medical certification to the FAA. They have had their chance to do the right thing and have missed the target by a large magnitude. The real safety issue for GA is the skill and safety practices of the pilots, not the medical conditiom. Rather than prohibit IFR, why not permit IFR if the pilot receives a couple of hours of dual flight instruction annually. That will reduce accidents.

    • Lee Ensminger says

      “In essence, the bill promotes scud running, not a good practice.”
      I didn’t read that anywhere in the proposed bill. Bad aeronautical decision making promotes scud running, and has since pilots began flying airplanes. It has nothing to do with this bill, which would be a pretty good thing for GA as written. What you’re doing is what we accuse politicians of-burdening a proposed bill with personal interest riders. It will have an uphill battle being passed as written. Let’s get THAT done first, demonstrate that planes won’t be falling from the skies like flies, THEN argue for refinements and modifications.

      • Mike says

        “Great start” — yes, exactly! Far better than we’re likely to get if we load it up and ask for everything.

        While you proponents of IFR make some very valid, and good, points it’s time for all of us to get behind this bill as written and promote it. It’s far from a sure thing that even it will get passed into law, and even less so if we ask for everything and are a house divided.

        This bill is the best hope GA has had in a long, long time. It flat makes a ton of sense as written.

    • Greg W says

      If “VFR only” will help this pass then that is what should be pursued. The VFR restriction could be removed or amended latter. If the regulators are in favor of reducing arbitrary control on anything we should not complain that it does not go far enough until after it is law, otherwise they are likely to say “fine it can stay like it is”. Worse yet an argument that IFR is inherently safer could entice a response of “every one must be IFR, under “positive” control on every flight. Remember the very scary impact of the innocent statement “if it saves one life”. VFR is very practical for personal flight you just need to remember the axiom of “time to spare?, go by air.”

      • Mooney says

        There is a safety argument involving unintended consequences. There are many times where an instrument rated pilot selects IFR over VFR even though VFR was available, although at a higher risk. For what possible reason should we have a law or regulation that forces an otherwise qualified pilot to not take advantage of a less risky option; IFR over VFR. It is te for GA to stand behind the correct choice and not accept a suboptal decision. This so called compromise wll add to the risk of flying and is likely to cause fatal accidents; but then that is how the FAA operates. There is more interest in feel good regulation. We need to stop this immediately.

        • Chuck Stone says

          I think their could be some misunderstanding going on here. I went back and re-read the article preceeding these comments and it seemed odd to me that the FAA would restrict private pilots from IFR flying. After re- reading the article (see excerpt)
          A pilot “choosing” to use the driver’s license medical certification standard would only be permitted to fly under visual flight rules (VFR), could not carry more than five passengers or fly for compensation, and would be required to remain at or below 14,000’ above sea level and below 250 knots airspeed. The pilot would also not be allowed to fly outside the United States (unless authorized by the country in which the flight would take place).

          I think I see now where the confusion comes from. This bill was to give relief to primarily those who have lost their medicals and forced down to the sport pilot level. This new bill would allow private pilots to “choose” to fly without a medical but remove the LSA restrictions and allow up to six pax, 6000 lbs aircraft etc. If you “choose” not to, and can still hold a third class medical you are not IFR restricted. That is my interpretation, I could be wrong? What do other’s say?
          In any case, let’s get behind the bill and get it passed. It is a win win for GA!
          Semper fi

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