The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Medical Advisory Board is the latest group to urge quick action on the proposed FAA rule that would allow thousands more pilots to fly without the need for a third class medical certificate.
In a Sept. 24 letter, the group asked the Department of Transportation and Office of Management and Budget to expedite their reviews of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
The group’s members, all of whom are pilots and doctors — including some FAA Aviation Medical Examiners (AMEs) — said that they believe changing the process will improve safety, save millions of dollars and keep more pilots in the air.
They added that the FAA actually recognized issues with the current medical certification system more than 10 years ago when it implemented the sport pilot rule, which has allowed thousands of pilots to fly safely without a third class medical certificate.
“Expanding this successful standard will not only save the federal government and general aviation pilots millions of dollars each year, it will also improve safety and foster a more open dialogue with pilots and their personal physicians,” they wrote. “A combination of education, self-assessment, and recurrent training has and will continue to ensure medical safety in the skies.”
The letter is the latest in a series of appeals to speed up the review process so the FAA’s NPRM can be opened for public comment. 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; Representatives Todd Rokita (R-Indiana) and Sam Graves (R-Missouri); 32 members of the House General Aviation Caucus; Senate GA Caucus Co-chair Mark Begich (D-Alaska); and a coalition of seven general aviation industry groups led by AOPA.
In their letter, the members of AOPA’s Medical Advisory Board noted that in the two to five years between medical exams, every pilot self-certifies that he or she is safe to fly before every takeoff. They added that most private pilots receive their third class certificates based on “cursory medical examinations conducted by doctors who often have only the limited history and clinical information pilots provide using the FAA’s MedXPress online applications system.”
“The complicated and confusing nature of the FAA’s medical application, coupled with the potential for the costly and time consuming delays that can occur when the FAA requires additional information for conditions when reported, combine in many instances to keep pilots from pursuing their freedom to fly,” they wrote.