Doctors vote to fight driver’s license medical

From a pilot’s perspective, the enemy of positive change is self-interest and bureaucracy, and both were well represented during the recent meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) in Chicago. According to a blog post from Flying Magazine’s Robert Goyer, an AMA committee voted to oppose the FAA’s proposed driver’s license medical by directing lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., to defeat the rule change.


  1. John says

    There is a huge disconnect between the measures taken ( the 3rd class medical inquisition) and the risks it supposedly addresses. About 750 per year die in boating accidents, 4500 per year in motorcycle accidents, 40,000 in car accidents, 650 in bicycle accidents. Yet none of these have any medical requirement. Yet in all of GA, there are 450 deaths per year, few of which are caused by medical impairment. WHY are recreational pilots singled out for this disproportionate treatment???

  2. Jim klick says

    I know several people who live in my community that should not be driving the golf carts they use, much less the 40 foot motorhomes they go to and from Florida and Arizona in.
    They can barely walk to their golf cart without assistance
    Why don’t we require them to get a Doctors note at 100 or 200 dollars each to ‘”prove” their
    Physical ability?

  3. Jim Wickert says

    If we are realistic about this…..Take a person driving an auto on a crowed interstate with a weight of about 3400 lbs., at 65 to 70 maybe 80 mph, and a spacing of about 2 feet between other autos front, side and rear. Now an airplane at about 1700 to 2800 lbs at 160 knots at about a mile min. apart from other airplanes in flight? Where will the most damage and life taken be if the pilot of the auto or plane have a heart attack or black out? If reality is placed on this situation any moving object or vehicle being operated the pilot should have a class 3 medical. In today’s world not going to happen!!! The AMA is either short sited or greedy. The pilot of a plane has a greater chance to find a place to land in a medical situation than an auto 2 feet from another auto or 50 feet from a structure like a house in a neighborhood. Let’s be realistic the FAA is trying to so should the highly educated AMA.

  4. Kenneth Hetge says

    As mentioned previously, “follow the money”. If the going rate is a 100 bucks for a 3rd class and there are roughly 400,000 pilots in this neighborhood, that’s a nice chunk of easy money. Why should they give up this “easy money” from a captured audience? They wont because they dont have to. The 3rd class has clearly outlived its usefulness, but no one or no entity has the fortitude to absolutely force the issue.

    If you are young, healthy and can hear, it is easy money(for them). AND, if you are old, un-healthy and can’t hear, IT IS STILL EASY MONEY(for the Dr’s) because you get forced into further and more costly evaluation. We are the CASH COW. They are in the driver’s seat and their well organized national group really has no reason to budge. Until you get the aircraft insurance underwriters to accept statistical data showing no significant risk exists from those flying without 3rd class medicals AND the FAA begins to accept ANY type of change to their long standing thought process, the decline will continue.

    The 3rd class medical is nothing more than using ‘Grade “A” cotton’ to cover a newly built airplane that will sit outside in the sun its entire life. It has outlived it’s usefulness and there is something better! ORGANIZE< ORGANIZE< ORGANIZE!! Force the issue because we still pay their salaries and GA hangs in the balance.

  5. BJS says

    I didn’t know there was so much animosity toward the medical profession by the GA community? I’m not an aviation medical examiner but I doubt the fee ($80 in our area) for the Class 3 exam is making any physician rich. Most I know who do it do it because they are pilots themselves and see it as a service to the community. I can assure all of you who are being critical of physicians that the majority don’t agree with hardly anything the AMA advocates; hence as Hawkins, who sees physicians as “white-robed high priests”, says the majority of physicians don’t belong to the AMA. I have to wonder if he holds his dentist with such disdain or if this is reserved for physicians only?

    • Henry Kelly says

      Personally, I see no harm in the requirement for a 3rd class medical..It forces at least an evaluation of your own medical condition and protects yourself and others from potential issues. My AME is a pilot too and he is well aware of the legal and medical issues that could impact the safety of me and him flying. I fly near a major class B. I think an every two year check is totally acceptable and prudent. There are lots of folks driving who shouldn’t be driving by the way. Sorry but the day I can’t pass a basic 3rd class physical is the day I should realize that I should not be flying. AMEs spend more money on the paperwork than the exam fee they get. The menace of an aging pilot population kidding itself about its capabilities is far worse than a simple 3rd class medical requirement.

      • Sarah A. says

        The harm in the 3rd class medical is that it imposes an unrealistic standard of health on the pilot population that no other sector of traqnsportation must submit to. OK so seeing a doctor on a regular basis is a good idea and I do so but I also know that unless she finds something seriously wrong with me my docotr is not going to prevent me from using my car to drive home afterwards. The medical community sees us as a captive audiance and can hold us to high standards and require all sorts of useless and expensive testing if we show the slightest of medical conditions. The FAA sees this as a growth industry for the folks in OKC and if they back off on these regulations they might be blamed for any incidents that follow (is is called CYA). There could be a lot more active pilots if these rediculisly detailed rules were eliminated and we were allowed to make our own informed decision on our suitability to fly, just as we do before we get behind the wheel of a car or a boat.

    • brett hawkins says

      Actually, I just spent 3 mornings in my dentist’s chair having a broken molar repaired. I don’t believe the FAA cares greatly about that, and my dentist does not determine whether or not I get to fly for another two years.

      If you read my earlier post, I was criticizing the AMA for its recent vote, not MDs in general. MDs in general don’t seem to care about a couple of hundred thousand recreational pilots, only the AMA and the national AME association, which are nothing more than trade associations.

      For an older pilot, the issue is not the $80 for the AME, it is the potential for thousands of bucks and endless paperwork delays if the AME decides he/she is going to refer a pilot to the SI process. That specific AME may not be getting any kickbacks, but the pilot’s annual cost of flying just went up considerably.

      If you think greedy baby-boomers ruined the country and shouldn’t be flying for fun, say so and put on your flame suit.

    • Jack Gentry says

      You are correct… Do not confuse the issue by lumping the majority of doctors in with the AMA. Yes a small percentage of physicians fall in with AMA position, however, the vast majority of them don’t really doesn’t have a dog in this fight to the extent that they would line up against pilots.

  6. DAVE WEBER says

    Vote with your pocket book ask your AME if they support the lobbing?
    if so then tell them you will be arranging your physical with someone who doesn’t support it.

  7. Otto Keesling says

    This is strickly money driven. We all know that your physical is only good the day you take it, after that we are self certifying. LSA seems to be working well. I can fly a J3 or Champ but not a C172. Now this really makes sense. Do away with the 3 class physical and give GA a shot in the arm or is this too hard for the God like FAA to understand. Eliminating the 3 class would increase aircraft sales dramatically. Get government of our back. Secret-many are flying without a physical. No one will ever know how many.

    No one in OKC Medical will loose their jobs and maybe just maybe they will catch up on the back log compared to the VA. Maybe Congress should hold hearing on the delays that you encounter in getting waivers for your physical. How mmany veterans are affected now?

    Go AOPA think what this will do for your membership roles.

  8. Tom says

    Probably need a 3rd class to hold a fishing license. After all you might hook the wrong thing if you sneeze.

  9. Jeff Aryan says

    It seems medical doctors think of themselves as “God” or close to it.

    Yes, they are very intelligent people. But they are just highly trained people in a certain skilled/discipline field they have picked to make a living.

    Also, if the medical field is so good, why is it still called a “Practice”. Doctors are not all knowing. People and pilots make there own decisions about what they will do and what they won’t do. Doctors cannot be ultimate decision maker about a private pilots ability to fly.

  10. SR says

    This is very sad to hear. I guess the next thing they will do is lobby for everyone to get a physical to get a drivers license. If the third class medical physical were a real detailed physical like your own doctor gives you it might have the slightest hint of usefulness, but it is not. I always thought that the medical community liked to use statistical and emperical evidence and trends to draw conclusions and make recommendations. Obviously that stuff takes second place to income greed. I hope that the progress already made by those in both sides of our national legislature will not be slowed by this type of misguided activity. If they have already decided by way of factual evidence and/or logical thought to vote/agree with eliminating the third class physical, then this new AMA effort should not slow them down much.

    • Douglas Manuel says

      SR has an interesting take on the issue. I propose we test the validity of medical establishments concern by making the medical a blanket transportation requirement, broken down by weight (and of course frequency based on age). Let’s see how the response shakes out when passenger cars require a class 3, SUV/motorhomes need a class 2 and all commercial transports need a class 1.
      Because they are safety oriented how about throwing in some currency adn biannual requirements too.

  11. Brett Hawkins says

    Fer Christ’s sake. What with the advent of the internet and the ability of most people to get medical info for free (often challenging their doc’s advice in the process), the white-robed high priests of Hippocrates are feeling left out and their former god-like status is diminshed.

    OTOH, many reasonable doc-pilots posting online clarify that the AMA only represents around 15% of MDs nationwide, and that said vote was not unanimous. We may later discover that their legal entity status prohibits lobbying, same as the AME national association after they (briefly) leaped into the fight a couple of months ago.

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