Medical reform moves ahead, FAA administrator reports at Oshkosh

OSHKOSH — The FAA has sent a proposal to reform the third-class medical certification process to the Department of Transportation for review, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Thursday at AirVenture.

huerta copyHuerta (pictured) would not discuss details of the proposed rule, but said the FAA has heard the GA community “loud and clear” on the need for reform.

The proposed rulemaking must be vetted by both the Department of Transportation and the White House Office of Management and Budget before it can be opened for public comment sometime in the fall.

“The easy thing would be for us to say ‘no,’ but the objective is to get to ‘yes,’” Huerta said.

He added that the joint Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)-Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) petition for medical reform, which was filed more than two years ago and launched the movement for change, is on hold so the agency can focus on quickly moving the new proposal through the rulemaking process.

“We’re pleased that the rulemaking is going forward, but the move toward reform has been far too slow,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “We have 10 years of data proving that pilots can fly safely without going through the costly and time-consuming process of getting a third-class medical certificate. AOPA will continue working closely with Congress to keep up the pressure and get this done. This issue is too important to our members and the entire aviation community to let it get bogged down in bureaucracy.”

When the FAA allowed the AOPA-EAA petition to languish, AOPA turned to friends in Congress for help, and on Dec. 11, 2013, Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana), a member of the House General Aviation Caucus, and GA Caucus Co-Chair Sam Graves (R-Missouri) introduced the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA). GAPPA now has 129 co-sponsors in the House and 16 in the Senate.

Thousands of AOPA members have contacted their congressional representatives in Washington and signed an AOPA traveling petition in support of third-class medical reform.  The traveling petition has been available at AOPA Fly-Ins and AirVenture.

During his remarks Thursday, Huerta also briefly discussed other reform efforts, including streamlining the approval process for angle of attack indicators to make them easier and less expensive to install, and changes underway for pilot certification and testing standards.


  1. Otto Keesling says

    Please, just make a decision we have waited far too long. As one who has a six year waiver it would be a welcome relief one way or the other.

    Let’s keep talking to our legislators.

    • Brian Lott says

      Huerta to 750,000 American citizens who are licensed pilots: “The easy thing would be for us to say no”.

      750,000 American citizens who are licensed pilots to Huerta: ” The easy thing for us to say is Class Action lawsuit in Federal Court”.

  2. Lee Ensminger says

    My opinion is it should follow GAPPA or be GAPPA plus IFR. Otherwise we should light up the comment period with our disagreement. I believe Secretary Huerta will come up with one or two items in GAPPA and expect us to congratulate them on the “progress” they’ve made, followed by trying to drag it out for years longer, hoping we’ll lose interest or intensity. I, for one, will not do that. AOPA, if you’re listening, I want my dollars used to support the GAPPA legislation and nothing less. For my money, that is your first priority at this time. If we know anything about bureaucracy, it is that they *never* relinquish authority, power, or budget voluntarily. Keep the pressure on your legislators, people who actually depend on your goodwill [vote] to stay in office, to pass GAPPA as written, unless they decide to add IFR.

  3. Rich says

    I had a conversation with someone intimately close to this matter at OSH on Wed.
    I was told that the idiot that was in charge of the medical division in OK City was dead set against this and made it quite clear it was DOA.
    I was also told he ain’t there anymore.
    And that the administrator is a reasonable person that will listen
    to ,well, reason.

    If you would have told me 11 years ago that we would ever have a Sport Pilot Certificate I would have said you were insane.
    We will see.

    • Sarah A says

      If the OKC idiot was dead set against the new fule than that is the best indication I have heard that it might actually be a good change. I am syill a bit uneasy about the statement that we will be “Surprised” by the new rule, such surprises from our government tend to be the bad kind. Anything short of the change promised by the GAPPA is not acceptable and even that does not go far enough since it did not include IFR flight. Essentially we need the 3rd class to be abolished, at least for light aircraft, could still be kept in place for big stuff (DC-3 ?). The Sport Pilot rule was a big step forward but included some really arbitrary limitations with regard to gross weight and stall speed. A simple revision to those aspects of that rule could have gone a long way to helping keep GA alive. The current medical rules are grounding pilots at an alamring rate, pilots that are still quite capable of flying and continue to operate ground vehicles in a much more demanding and stressful environment.

    • John says

      Tom, I understand the president did sign an executive order already and it included a proposal for a tram going across the Rio Grande in only a northerly direction, but the House will only allow a budget of $100 for the costs and Harry Reid is sitting on it in the Senate. Both Harry and the President say “if it just wasn’t for those Republicans who want to starve the children” the third class medicals would be a thing of the past!!!

      • Tom says

        Funny though I have this picture in my head of when they used to tar and feather nare-do-wells and put them on a rail car heading out of town. I’m really surprised the guys at Osh were so kind as not to entertain a similar solution. It’s likely that if and when the “proposal” is leaked out there will be a mass burning of medical certificates as it is doubtful that there would be any enforcement to speak of after that. Alternatively there will probably be a mass burning of certificates no matter what the outcome. Maybe they will give tours of the Oklahoma City “ghost town” med offices some day with ol Doc Silberman’s desk and “reject” rubber stamp in place. That would be nice.

        • Sarah A says

          I have a better idea, instead of burning medical certificates lets burn the Federal Air Surgeon and all of his staff, that will put an end to medical certification for good.

          As for the promised rule change, I am not going to bet my retirement account on it being a reasonable and complete overhaul of the medical certification process that we so need. Remember that the Federal Air Surgeon certinly had a big say so in this and he is the idiot that wanted to start screening for Sleep Apenea.

  4. Max Sampson says

    I would have liked to be there for that. Hopefully Mr. Huerta was made to realize that he and the FAA are the MAIN CAUSE of General Aviation’s biggest struggles. GA would be flourishing now if they only would make decisions based on the solid input of industry members – pilots, manufacturers, business aviation leaders, etc. I would have loved to ask him how their new “1500 hr rule”, which was a reaction due to the Colgan Air crash, does any good whatsoever towards safety when the captain of that flight had almost 3500 hours and the first officer had almost 2300 hours. FAA prefers QUANTITY over QUALITY – real smart. Hours flown had nothing to do with that crash. The Asiana captain had over 10,000 hours. Sadly, this nation’s proudest industry is being held down by stupid FAA policies and government taxation.

    • Sarah A says

      The 1500 hours change was based on such short sighted opinions as not wanting to pay the pilots to get their experience with passengers on the plane. Some people think that the pilots should come up with those 1500 hours on their own and then start their airline career. Have these same shortsighted people ever given thought as to who will be treating them if they end up in a hospital ER ? Why Interns and Residents otherwise know as doctors accumulating experience by practicing on them.

  5. Richard Warner says

    Just some more bureaucratic B.S. They’ve had almost 3 years to go through the rule making process. Congress needs to step up and slap this bureaucracy down. We are being governed by unelected people which isn’t the way its supposed to be. Disgusting!!!!!

  6. VAUGHN S. PRICE age 83 15.000 hs says

    I laid off for 45 years, did my 6 hrs and flew Cessnas 150, 152, 172,and Douglas DC-3. I had more trouble with the Cessnas because of the FAA requirment of restricted up elevator.
    I was re certified by a nice gentleman who had soloed the same year I closed Air College of Corona and Hesperia

  7. Vernon -Captain Crab- Barr says

    Excuse my being snide, but of course he can’t, “share the details”! Right……!!!!!!

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