The Flying Physicians Association (FPA) has become the latest group to lend support to third-class medical reform and urge government officials to speed up their review of the FAA’s notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would expand the number of pilots who could fly without needing to obtain a third-class medical certificate, a standard that has been successfully used by sport pilots for a decade.
In its Sept. 12 letter, the FPA, which is made up of pilot-physicians, including many aviation medical examiners, urged the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget to quickly complete their reviews of the NPRM. Only after those reviews are complete can the proposed rule be opened to public comment.
“Many doctors who fly agree that the third-class medical is adding a burden with very little benefit,” the group wrote.
The letter also asserted that “from a medical perspective, very little significant pathology can be detected by an AME performing an FAA flight physical by the very nature of the examination requirements and procedures.”
In a survey of its members, 80% of respondents said they believe the third-class medical system is not necessary, does not add to safety, and can be eliminated for private flying.
The FPA is just the latest group to ask the Department of Transportation to expedite its review process. Similar letters have been sent by 11 senators led by John Boozman (R-Arkansas) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) who are co-sponsoring legislation to reform the third-class medical process; Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) and Sam Graves (R-Missouri); 32 members of the House GA Caucus; Senate GA Caucus Co-chair Mark Begich (D-Alaska); and a coalition of seven general aviation industry groups.
In its letter, the FPA suggested that pilots would be better served by a system that provides pilots with continuing education about maintaining their medical health and information needed to self-assess prior to flight.
“Additionally, a system is needed that encourages, instead of discourages, open and honest dialogue between pilots and their longtime personal treating physicians,” the Flying Physicians wrote. “We believe this is a much better practice than a cursory medical exam with a doctor who has no history or clinical knowledge of an individual, as is often the case with FAA physicals.”