Third Class Medical Reform Closer to Reality
The Senate has voted to pass H.R. 636, known as the “FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016,” which has already passed the House. The legislation, which includes third class medical reform, next goes to President Obama for his signature.
The FAA’s authorization expires July 15. The new bill extends that authorization to Sept. 30, 2017.
“This is the most significant legislative victory for general aviation in decades,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Mark Baker. “These reforms will provide relief to hundreds of thousands of pilots from an outdated, costly, and unnecessarily burdensome system. This legislation will strengthen the private pilot-private physician relationship and improve awareness of medical issues throughout our community. It will help pilots save time, money, and frustration.”
Once the President signs the legislation, the FAA has up to a year to develop and issue regulations to govern pilots flying under the reforms. If regulations are not in place within one year, the FAA will not be able to take enforcement action against pilots who make a good faith effort to comply with the terms of the reforms, according to AOPA officials.
“This is a moment to celebrate what we’ve achieved together,” said Baker. “But we know our work isn’t done. The legislation lays out a clear path forward, but many additional details will be worked out during the regulatory process over the coming months. AOPA will be watching closely and working with the FAA to ensure that the regulations reflect the intent of the legislation and the real-world needs of pilots.”
Third class medical reform will save general aviation pilots time, money, and frustration while giving them tools they need to take charge of their health and fitness to fly. For most pilots who have held a valid FAA medical certificate within 10 years from the date the legislation is signed into law, the reforms mean they will never again need to see an FAA aviation medical examiner (AME).
Most other pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate will need to go through the medical certification process only once. Even pilots who have a medical condition that requires a special issuance medical certificate will only have to go through the process once in most cases.
“Under the old system, pilots flying on a special issuance medical were often expected to repeat the process year after year. They might have to send reams of documentation to the FAA for evaluation, repeat expensive and medically unnecessary tests for health conditions that are unchanged, and spend weeks or months grounded while they wait for the FAA to review their file,” said Baker. “These reforms put decisions about medical care back into the hands of pilots and their personal physicians, people who know them well and have an ongoing interest in their health and wellbeing.”
“We are grateful to Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), two general aviation pilots who led the third class medical reform effort in the Senate, along with all of their colleagues who have helped make medical reform a reality,” Baker continued.“In addition, we appreciate the hard work of Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for their tireless work in advancing an FAA reauthorization bill through the Senate and including third class medical reform in the FAA extension.”