Two GA advocates have filed an amendment to the Senate highway bill now under consideration that includes third-class medical reform.
The amendment, which was filed by Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas), mirrors language in the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2). Both senators are longtime general aviation advocates and Manchin is also a pilot and AOPA member.
“We very much want to see third-class medical reform enacted by any means possible, and we appreciate the leadership of Senators Manchin and Boozman in bringing this issue forward and working to have it added to the highway bill,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Mark Baker. “Both these senators understand just how important this issue is to the general aviation community and have demonstrated that they’re willing to act to give pilots relief from the outdated and cumbersome third-class medical process.”
Support for third-class medical reform in Congress continues to grow, according to AOPA officials.
On July 16, AOPA issued a call-to-action to members, urging them to contact their elected officials and ask them to cosponsor PBR2, which was introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year and includes third-class medical reform, as well as numerous protections for pilots facing an FAA enforcement action. Nearly 70,000 contacts were made, and within a few days 21 more senators had added their names to the bipartisan list of cosponsors, which now numbers 47 in the Senate and 117 in the House.
“Our friends in Congress and our members are really helping make the difference when it comes to creating momentum for this important legislation,” said Baker. “Thanks to all of you who have contacted your legislators. If you have or haven’t already been in touch with your senators or your member of Congress, I urge you to contact them now to support this amendment. Every voice counts.”
“We are determined to get third-class medical reform, and lawmakers have heard our message loud and clear,” said Baker. “But this doesn’t mean we can or will rest. We’ll keep working for medical reform every day, and through every possible channel, until we get it done.”
AOPA’s pursuit of third-class medical reform to expand on the successful Sport Pilot medical standard, which has safely allowed some pilots to fly without a third-class medical certificate for more than a decade, is not new. In March 2012, AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) jointly filed a petition with the FAA to expand the standard to more pilots and more types of aircraft.
Later the 2014 General Aviation Pilot Protection Act gained support, but time ran out in the 113th Congress before the bill could be brought to a vote. In the meantime, the FAA developed a proposed rule to address needed changes to the third-class medical process. The draft rule has been held up in the DOT review process for nearly a year with no sign of movement.
The start of the 114th Congress in January 2015 brought new legislation in the form of PBR2, S. 571, introduced by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) and Manchin. This bill has been put in amendment form (Manchin-Boozman) with the intent to attach it to the highway bill currently being considered by the Congress.