The U.S. Senate has passed the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2).
The bill, which includes third-class medical reform, was passed by unanimous consent on Dec. 15, less than a week after it was reported out by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The House of Representatives must also pass the bill before it can go to the President for his signature.
“This is a big victory for general aviation pilots all across the country,” said Senator James Inhofe, author of the bill, a member of the Senate General Aviation Caucus, and a CFI with more than 11,000 flight hours. “The Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 addresses many of the concerns these pilots have brought to my attention first hand at events like Airventure each year held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, since the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights was signed into law in 2012.
“Currently, the FAA’s medical certification process is bureaucratic, burdensome and discourages pilots from disclosing and treating medical conditions that could impact their ability to fly,” he continued. “This legislation reforms the medical certification process for general aviation pilots in a way that will increase pilots’ knowledge of risk while demanding treatment of identified conditions. This bill also increases due process protections for pilots, ensuring the FAA treats them in a fair and equitable manner.”
“This is an enormous step toward getting long-awaited third-class medical reforms, and we’re excited that the Senate has moved so decisively to get this done,” said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President Mark Baker. “Without a doubt this has been a real fight, but the passage of PBR2 shows that members of the Senate recognize the value of supporting the general aviation community. This legislation will help hundreds of thousands of general aviation pilots by saving them time, money, and frustration while giving them tools they need to take charge of their health and fitness to fly. These reforms are vital to the future of general aviation, and we are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Jim Inhofe and Joe Manchin, as well as Sens. John Thune, Bill Nelson and the 71 bipartisan cosponsors who have made this possible.”
“Working a bill through Congress is incredibly difficult and painstaking work, so we’ll take a moment to congratulate all involved in this major step forward for aeromedical reform, although we know the Senate’s approval guarantees us only more hard work ahead,” added Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chairman Jack J. Pelton. “First, we thank Senators Jim Inhofe and Joe Manchin, their staffs, and the other co-sponsors of the bill to get to where we are now. The continuing communication between EAA members and their senators also played a major role and we’ll need that again in the House. The goal is for tens of thousands of pilots to avoid the complexity and expense that is inherent in the current third-class medical certification process.”
“General Aviation is losing 6,000 pilots per year because of antiquated regulations and unnecessary bureaucratic barriers,” said Manchin. “This industry contributes $219 billion to the U.S. economy each year and supports 1.1 million jobs. I am proud to have helped lead this effort with Senator Inhofe to finish what we started in 2012.”
DETAILS ABOUT THE PILOT’S BILL OF RIGHTS 2
Under the medical reform section of PBOR2, most pilots who have held a valid third-class medical, either regular or special issuance, within 10 years of the legislation’s enactment would never need to get another FAA medical exam. The rule would apply to pilots flying VFR or IFR in aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds and carrying up to five passengers at altitudes below 18,000 feet and speeds up to 250 knots.
Pilots who develop certain medical conditions, such as specific cardiac, mental health, or neurological conditions, will have to get a FAA special issuance medical one time only.
For pilots who have not had a valid medical in the past 10 years and those who have never received a medical certificate, a one-time third-class medical certification by an aviation medical examiner will be required.
After pilots have met these requirements, they will need to visit their personal physician once every four years for a medical exam. Pilots will need to fill out a form and provide it to the doctor performing the exam. The pilot must make a note of the visit and keep the signed form in his or her logbook.
The form will include a short medical history questionnaire, as well as a list of items the doctor must include in the examination. Following the exam, both the physician and the pilot must sign the form verifying that the items were examined and discussed.
Pilots also must complete an online medical education course every two years.
PBOR2 also enhances the due process rights established in the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights by ensuring pilots have the right to appeal an FAA decision through a new, merit-based trial in Federal Court.
It also increases transparency for pilots subject to an investigation or enforcement action by requiring the FAA to articulate the specific activity under investigation and provide specific documentation relevant to its investigation.
It also expedites updates to the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) Improvement Program required in the first Pilot’s Bill of Rights and directs the FAA to include the effective duration of temporary flight restrictions in NOTAMs. The legislation also mandates that the FAA certify the accuracy of posted NOTAMs.
Lastly, it insures the accessibility of flight data, such as air traffic communication tapes and radar information produced by contract towers, and flight service stations and controller training programs, which gives certificate holders the ability to use this information to defend themselves during an enforcement action proceeding.