The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has passed an amendment offered by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to S. 571, better known as the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2). The move brings third-class medical reform one step closer to reality, according to officials with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
A full committee vote on the amended legislation was temporarily deferred as a result of scheduling conflicts.
“We are pleased that this vital legislation is still moving ahead, and we look forward to a full committee vote soon,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “The legislation has strong bipartisan support from senators who understand that the third-class medical process is long overdue for reform and want to help hundreds of thousands of pilots fly safely without having to make repeated trips to an aviation medical examiner or submit reams of paperwork to the FAA year after year.”
The committee considered several possible amendments to PBR2 at the Nov. 18 markup, including two offered by Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), but ultimately passed only the Manchin amendment, which had strong support from the aviation community and medical professionals.
One amendment offered by Nelson would have required a panel of aerospace medical experts to create a checklist of conditions that could impair the individual’s ability to safely operate an aircraft and which pilots would have to sign along with the physician’s verification.
Opponents argued that doctors are well equipped and in a better position to know what to look for in a standard physical exam as opposed to a federal agency.
The other Nelson amendment would have limited certain liability protections to federal employees, whereas the Manchin amendment extends those protections to federal contractors, including pilot examiners, aviation medical examiners and others. Both Nelson amendments were defeated 11-13.
“We appreciate the leadership of Sen. Manchin, himself a general aviation pilot, and other committee members who recognize the significance of third-class medical reform to our community,” Baker said. “The fact that this legislation has come so far is also a testament to the engagement of AOPA’s members who have contacted their elected officials more than 94,000 times so far this year to seek their support for PBR2 and medical reform.”