FAA pursues rulemaking on third class medical

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA is moving ahead with the rulemaking process to possibly expand the number of pilots eligible to fly without the need for a third-class medical certificate.

This is in response to a petition from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).The two associations filed a petition with the FAA some two years ago.

FAA is calling the rulemaking effort the “Private Pilot Privileges Without a Medical Certificate” project. It will consider whether to allow private pilots fly without a third-class medical certificate in certain circumstances. Instead of a medical ,pilots will be able to use other criteria, including a valid driver’s license. The FAA announced no other details of the planned action.

As part of the announcement, FAA said it will consider whether it can “safely provide any relief to the medical requirement before the rulemaking process is complete.”

More than 16,000 comments about the no-medical proposal were received by the FAA, most of which were positive, according to FAA officials.

EAA and AOPA were quick to express their pleasure at the FAA’s announcement.

EAA officials called this move to formal rulemaking “a good initial step” and said it supports any initiatives to modernize the aviation medical certification system for recreational flying.

For decades EAA has made numerous petitions and requests to the FAA to extend medical self-certification to more of the pilot population.

AOPA President Mark Baker called the rulemaking announcement “the next important step along a path that we sincerely hope will allow more pilots to fly without the expense and frustration of the medical certification process.”

He added he made pursuing the medical exemption a top priority when he took over as president of AOPA.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association also quickly commended the FAA for the move. Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the association, said he wants “to applaud the FAA for undertaking the rulemaking effort.”

He also added appreciation to members of Congress for pushing the issue to the forefront.

Legislation in Congress has been gaining support from many legislators in both the House and Senate.


  1. says

    I have been in aviation since i was 16. Paid for my own ratings . Obtained my
    Commercial by 18 and started Ag flying . Went on to fly F-4s, in the Marines, then the airlines and eventually became a 747 international Captain. Logged over 25.000 accident free, violation free Hours flying worldwide in over 67 countries . I am also
    an A&P, I/A and licensed avionics Tech. I am always learning. But some things never
    Change and never should. Like a pilots attitude toward safety. Safety should be job
    One for all aviators especially those who teach , The Flight instructors. The CAA and
    The FAA evolved over the years for various reasons but the primary focus of these organizations is to promote aviation that includes above all else Safety for the pilots as well as the general public. Can the FAA Aeromedical team mandate physical safety
    Among licensed aviators, or efficiently regulate physical safety among air crewman ? Are They more qualified to use a team of Doctors known as ( a Cardio Review Board)
    To accurately and fairly determine an aviators heart health than a couple of local Cardiologists with lets say a combined experience of over 50 years who can do a Bruce protocol in a nearby facilty close to an applicants home ? How can the FAA cardio board standards be any less or any more stringent than the standards that the
    American Heart Association recommends for the local Cardiologists. ? The time has come to recognize the FAA is no less subjective in its interpretation than any other licensed Cardiologists for whatever the medical condition of the airman. However the
    FAA is suffering from what is know as the CYA disease . It’s better to deny an applicant
    Than to explain why he was not grounded in the first place if the medical issue evolves to an aviation accident. The FAA needs to be relieved of the bogged down, Bureaucracy of red tape, which after many years has evolved into an Ineffcective , biased subjectivity against applicants by Authorizing local cardiologists to make determination of physical fitness for medical Certification. In the very least unrestricted 3 rd. Class certification . Anything less is Monoply of and by a very few who have demonstrated they cannot in a timely manner serve the public . Why not allow a local Doctor ito put his name on a document stating an airman is safe to fly ? There is no substitute for experience and trust in thatbexperience. Pieces of plastic in your wallet (Pilots licenses) don’t make you safe. They simply make you legal. Only the pilot can make himself-Herself safe. The FAA trusted me for over 44 years to do the right thing and I did and Have a record to prove it .Why can’t Congress mandate the FAA trust local highly experienced Cardiologist and other medical Practioners be allowed this same trust in certifying airman.? (at the very least for unrestricted 3rd class certification) ? The FAA has continued to accumulate regs as I have seen for my brief 44 year career in aviation but the regs or even lack of regs don’t mandate,
    Encourage, or even promote safety. Only we , as aviators can do that from the start of
    Engines till we shut them down, from chocks to chocks. And that Mr. Senator or Congressman will never change. It’s time to streamline the FAA Aeromedical Team,
    at Mike Mahoney Drive in OKC and relieve it of its “Special Issuance Duties”
    by trusting and allowing local, highly experienced and in most cases , more highly experienced Medical Practioners do the job more quickly and more efficiently on a local basis. I too, have been jacked around for years on special issuance red tape,
    And have had no less than 3 highly qualified Doctors say I am more qualified physically than some current Captains flying Boeing 777s daily overseas for a major
    Carrier. They have told me repeatedly the the FAA is just fuc##ing with you. When I
    ask why ? One Dr. Responded , “Because they can” . Who is to stop them ? They are Gods. After all, your EKG, EEG, Total Efraction exceeds 58, Bruce Protorcol treadmill run of 12 minutes and 54 seconds speaks for itself. And yet I still can’t get a 3 rd class.
    The system is broken. I feel yor pain. I will join forces with the aviation community and
    Continue to write and call my congressman and senators . If that doesn’t work, I will continue to Do what I have been doing. ” Don’t let the Bastards get you down” !!!

  2. TLess says

    I really hope it gets approved. I had a Bypass 4 years ago. Never had a heart attack.
    Tried over and over to get a medical even spent over 26K dollars on two scope and five complete stress tests. I run about 3 miles a day and still bench press over 320 lbs. Vision 20/20.
    The have forced me to fly without a medical (illegally) for the last 4 years. I just turned 60 years and I have over 18,000 hours with ATP in FIXED and ROTOR WING. Do you think I am ever going to give it up. LOL

  3. Dean S says

    As I share my Nissan Titan with 18 wheelers, SUVS with families, motorcycles and more as we all navigate 8′ wide asphalt ribbons across America with inches and feet separating us at 70 mph from our next life. I get to participate in the above with only a drivers license.

    I have more than a healthy respect for my alleged pilot skills and use that training and common sense to help me and my passengers arrive at our destination safely despite the fact every year I must devote up to 4 months, and sometimes more, to maintain my Class III via multiple Dr. appointments such as Cardiologist, treadmill, lab and finally an AME located miles from each other. Stacks of paper are forwarded to FAA followed by a formal request a few months later requesting more paperwork. This where Lucy pulls the football from Charlie Brown and I, not Charlie exert the all too familiar “ARRGGHH!!” over my annual odyssey to satisfy my Class III.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    • David Parrish says

      Dean… I agree! I can’t renew my medical due to my “conditions”. I used to jump through the hoops (annual stress test, blood work, full physical exam, reams of forms, etc.). But, I then let my medical expire since I had some new “conditions” to deal with. The chance of getting the FAA to allow a special 3rd class looked extremely dim. So, the flying stopped… Rather, I stopped.

      However, I still have a license to ride my motorcycle and drive other vehicles (cars, trucks) on the public streets and highways. And, I participate in other activities whereby the general public may be at risk. I have no restrictions other than my FAA 3rd class medical has expired and likely can’t be renewed. My physical and mental abilities have not changed… I vote for self-certification!

      So, what is the difference? Is a cardiac event more or less likely for a pilot? My bet is that it is the same as for anyone else.

  4. Terrance Power says

    Since I’m over 40, my third class medical is only good for 24 months. I have some very minor health issues that precludes the AME from being able to issue me my 24 month medical on the spot….it usually takes 4-5 months to get back the approval (I always get approved) from Oklahoma.

    So I end up with a 19 month Medical, since they start the clock at the original examination date. I always end up having a 3-4 month gap where I can’t fly (unless I take an instructor or another pilot along) due to this paper chase.

    I fly Cessnas and have to go through this game to continue to fly. I also drive an even heavier and potentially more dangerous Toyota Sequoia….for which my drivers license works just fine. I trust my fellow pilots to self-assess (as we have for decades) to exercise the privileges that the current 3rd Class Medical would provide.

    FAA, please fix this mess or Congress will fix it for you.

  5. Norman Asbjornson says

    Norman Asbjornson Legislation is the only way to go. The FAA is destroying general aviation so contact your congressional representatives and urge them to take action to save general aviation

  6. flylowguy says

    According to the FAA’s own charter, they are responsible to ‘promote and regulate aviation’. They certainly perform the former with a slack attitude while twisting thumbs everywhere they go on the latter.
    There’s no question that pilots are interested in safety, and that includes their own competency in performance, ongoing education, and their personal health.
    The FAA needs to stop their stodgy handling of current issues and let us get on with flying safely, and allow pilots to be the ones who are the primary judges of our fitness.

  7. Wayne says

    It’s taken the FAA 2 years to even consider the AOPA/EAA proposal. The FAA medical branch is currently 120 days behind. Its clearly time for congress to step in.

  8. Warren Harrison says

    Was watching a video just last night of one of the seminars at SnF. The top or next to top dog at FAA Flight Surgeon in Washington, an MD with many years experience with military, airline and now GA. He briefly commented on the status of the two pending bill in Congress. As much as I can recall of his direct quote or paraphrased was “While we are aware of the pending legislation before the Senate and Congress, their bill proposal is far more broad than that of the EAA-AOPA petition(of 2 years ago) and thus we have recently establised up a rule making committee to examine how to expand (relax) rules for 3rd class recreational pilots, with an Open Comment period in early May (2014). It is our goal to NOT BE TOLD WHAT TO DO BY CONGRESSIONAL MANDATE OR LAW; rather the FAA wants to be the driver of the bus in this initiative.”

    My take is the Feds are now being forced into a corner and to do something before and if the bill comes out of committee in the house and senate for a vote (still a long shot it will) and find some minor compromise to the current LSA rules / self certify med. I would guess they max expand to include most fixed gear, up to 180 HP – and still try to limit to 2 seats…..or in other words, the original petition EAA/AOPA sent two years ago.. THAT will be where there may be a slight expansion,

  9. Robert Merrell says

    I agree with most of the above comments. The FAA is not going to do anything that would be satisfactory to the affected population. They’ll hem and haw and delay and come out with a token action to get Congress off their case. I say, let’s all get behind the congressional action and FORCE the FAA to eliminate the third class for almost all non commercial operations, IFR included.

  10. Keith says

    Congress MUST be pushed to pass this — the FAA is going to give us some token loosening of the noose, hoping that this will get Congress off their backs, so that they can avoid having to give any kind of justification for keeping the medical requirement.

  11. Tom says

    Ha Ha. It took Congress to rattle a saber or two in both houses to get the FAA to move on the alphabet org’s petition. Sorry, a day late and a few dollars short. Come on guys. This is really liberalism manifested. Nothing short of stopping the over control by the feds is going to work. You see it is the “…if we can save just one life…”. You know the drill. It’s why we have a scillion airbags in the autos and now coming the mandatory rear view cameras for autos at an additional 132 dollars added to cost of new vehicles in 2016. Don’t you all get it? What if an airplane (God forbid) falls into a school yard because of “sudden incapacitation”?????? That’s what the FAA is all about. It’s protecting their reputation for some 1 in a million event that would put them in the “funny papers” so we in general aviation foot the costs for their paranoia. The ELT thing is the same thinking. The ELT’s don’t work to such a degree that it is laughable as to why we have to spend 1 penny on them just to protect the FAA’s reputation that they have done “everything possible” to protect the general public no matter how ridiculous it is to a reasonable mind……………………

    • Gary Fisher says

      Tom, I agree with most of what you said, however, your “liberalism” comment bothered me. This is not a partisan issue, it is a buerocracy issue.

      • Tom says

        Thanks for your comment although I contend that liberalism is indeed what drives “buerocracy”. Theoretically, a Libertarian would have NO “buerocracy” whatsoever so to say it’s not a partisan issue merely masks the real problem. Conservatives (Libertarian leaning) would have less regulation with less government spending (read that less “buerocracy”) less control – by the FAA (IRS, etc. etc.) which creates more freedom – to fly. It’s the same “buerocracy” fear based (with liberalism at it’s ultimate source) that is keeping us drenched in ethanol and is slowing down the achievable aviation gas that will revitalize general aviation all because of the “partisan” (as you put it) leaning group that is dogmatic about air polution and global warming. What say you? By the way it was Cokie Roberts father the Congressman that crashed and wasn’t found that created the knee jerk reaction to force us into the “liberalism” of the ELT. After all the nanny state wants to be sure that they protect you in every little way and thereby stomping on your freedom. Do you want the Feds to force you to wear a warning button around your neck just in case you are by yourself and fall in the bath tub and can’t get up or do you think that the government should stay out of our business if we want to fall in the bath tub without government intervention? FREEDOM, Gary that’s what this is all about. It’s about “personal freedom” (a term that liberals detest). If you are sick and can’t fly then don’t fly. If you hurt someone then it is YOUR fault and not the government’s business to hand cuff you so you won’t hurt someone……….. What sy you?

        • Terry says

          Tom: instead of a raging right wing political ideology rant, most pilots would rather not be subjected to, why not use your demonstrated energy and writing skills to promote getting rid of the Third Class Medical for private pilots? P.S. Please don’t reply that crushing liberalism is the only way to keep us flying. Terry

  12. Sarah A says

    What the FAA Givith, the FAA can Taketh Away. We need this locked down by congressional mandate to ensure the FAA does not use this take to take the pressure off and then start to whittle away the new freedom. Just look to what they were after with that Sleep Apnea testing, maybe sneak in a requirement that you need some special screening at some point that falls short of a 3rd class or start listing conditions that cannot be exempted. Stop this FAA farce and go full speed ahead with the congressional mandate. The FAA had over three years if it was serious about revisions.

    • Gary Fisher says

      I agree,
      Sarah. We should not count on the FAA because they have clearly shown they cannot be counted on. I also agree with the Flying Magazine staff that even the Congressional bill needs to remove the IFR restriction. Private pilots, not flying for hire and with a driver’s license medical, will be the safest if we can use our IFR privileges instead of encouraging scud running.

  13. Charles Plumery says

    I agree with all the comments so far and will add that most holds true for all areas of our government.
    The best is to abolish the FAA and replace it with pilot centered organization.

  14. Richard Warner says

    I agree with Gary & Dennis. This power hungry bureaucracy is doing nothing to PROMOTE aviation as they are supposed to be doing. This is not just with this medical issue, but with anything else. Try to install something in your airplane like a simple dry cell battery permanently that the FAA hasn’t run through the approval wringer and caused the cost to triple or more before you can do it legally. The Congress needs to do to the FAA what they did to the CAA back in about 1960, and that’s get rid of it and start over. I even know some FAA inspectors who are completely fed up with the ridculous regulations that they must enforce. I expect, if they are going to approve this, that they will wait until Oshkosh so us lowly peasants can rejoice and praise them publicly. Sign me “Fed up with the B.S.”

  15. Jeff Aryan says

    Ditto on the above two comments. The FAA will not give up anything unless they are forced too. My hope is Congress passes a law to eliminate the Third class medical.

    The FAA in my opinion is just playing games with this. Look back at their history with this and also when their mission statement was changed a few years ago to (Paraphrase) “Support and Encourage Aviation”. It’s amazing how and why that little phrase was removed. What is the FAA afraid of ? It really makes you wonder. Please Congress, over rule the FAA on this one. We need it bad.

  16. James A. Mitchell says

    The FAA won’t be happy until the only people flying will be the military and the airlines (with foreign pilots).

  17. Dennis McLain says

    Gary has it right. I do not trust the FAA, they are incapable of giving up power, or moving quickly, especially if they can use the “safety” issue as an excuse.

  18. Gary Fisher says

    Seriously? I don’t trust the FAA. The only reason they are now even looking at this issue is due to the Congressional action. The legislation pending is much broader and more realistic than anything the FAA would ever allow. The FAA is incapable of relinquishing power. They will now just point to the fact they are “looking” at the rule making process to further delay this much needed action. The pilot population is shrinking by 6000 pilots per year. By the time the FAA actually gets around to doing anything, if they ever do, they will have crippled or killed private aviation.

    • Rob Tapley says

      I agree, I had a successful surgery 3 years ago that corrected a medical problem I had. I had to be up front with the surgery because of the scars. I now get the same old letter with the date changed every 3 months asking for more information on the same problem that was fixed. I haven’t flown in almost 3 years, because of the cost and am fed up & tired of the whole charade by their D.O.s (not internal medicine docs but osteos!) I am a Clinical Scientist and used to fly to Mexico doing Missionary work. I consider it a loss to my service to God and Country, (also in the C.A.P.) I no longer fly to Mexico, and I am quitting the C.A.P., and probably just let my medical lapse out.

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