The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) plan to ask for an exemption to allow pilots who fly recreationally to use the driver’s license medical standard currently available only to sport pilots.
Delivering the keynote address on the final day of the AOPA Aviation Summit, the presidents of AOPA and EAA, Craig Fuller and Rod Hightower, said the two groups are working together to finalize a request to create the exemption. As part of the process, the groups are proposing that pilots be required to complete a course on aeromedical factors and self-certification.
“We have more than five years’ experience now with the Sport Pilot certificate and the driver’s license medical standard,” said Hightower. “In that time, we have not had a single medical incapacitation accident. The standard works.”
“Furthermore, our petition would enhance safety by requiring initial and recurrent training about health awareness and medical self-certification for any pilot choosing to use the driver’s license standard,” added Fuller. “It will provide data that can be used to continually refine and evaluate the effectiveness of the standard.”
EAA and AOPA plan to file their request for exemption after the first of the year. Under the proposed exemption, pilots holding recreational, private, commercial, or airline transport pilot certificates who only fly recreationally could use the same driver’s license medical self-certification standard currently available to sport pilots.
In addition to holding a driver’s license as proof of adequate health, a pilot would also be required to participate in a recurring online education program that would reinforce and expand a pilot’s understanding of aeromedical factors and self-certification requirements. EAA and AOPA officials say they believe the education program, developed by the Air Safety Institute in consultation with AOPA’s Board of Aeromedical Advisors and EAA’s Aeromedical Advisory Council, would provide an equivalent level of safety as a third class medical.
As envisioned, the exemption would be limited by aircraft size and type of operations — for example, a single engine aircraft, with 180 hp or less, four seats, and fixed gear and operations limited to day, VFR, with one passenger. That would greatly expand the number of aircraft a pilot might fly while operating under a driver’s license medical standard, officials say.
EAA and AOPA estimate that the exemption could save pilots who currently fly with medical certificates nearly $250 million over 10 years, and save the federal government $11 million over the same period.
EAA and AOPA officials say they believe the exemption they plan to request is the next logical step in the journey begun when the FAA permitted sport pilots to use the driver’s license medical standard. Further, the associations believe the exemption will maintain or enhance aviation safety by improving knowledge and awareness of aeromedical factors through recurrent education for all pilots utilizing the exemption, and by encouraging pilots to continue flying familiar aircraft.