Published in Midwest Flyer – Oct/Nov 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following the President signing into law an FAA Authorization extension, including Third Class Medical Reform, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) President & CEO Mark Baker told members, “We did it together! Medical reforms are now the law, and that’s a big win for general aviation.”
Baker continued: “It has taken years of commitment and hard work to make these reforms a reality. AOPA and EAA started the current reform effort back in 2012 when we petitioned the FAA for a medical exemption, but the terms of that petition were much more limited than what pilots will get under the new reform law. This is something our entire community can get excited about.”
Although the extension only keeps the FAA running through September 2017, the medical reforms are permanent, and the FAA now has one year to develop and enact rules that align with the reforms. Pilots will not be allowed to fly under the reforms until the FAA has completed its rulemaking or the one-year time limit has elapsed, whichever comes first. The FAA has not yet said when it will begin the rulemaking process or what form that process will take, although at the “Meet The Administrator” forum during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, July 28, 2016, FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta said that he thought the process would go quickly, because his staff had already completed much of the work.
“The reforms are now law and that means we’re in the home stretch when it comes to getting more pilots flying without compelling them to repeatedly go through the expensive and burdensome medical certification process,” said Baker. “But there’s more work to do to ensure that the law is translated into regulations that make sense and work in the real world.”
Under the reforms, pilots who have held a valid medical certificate any time in the decade prior to July 15, 2016, may not need to take another FAA medical exam. The 10-year look-back period applies to both regular and special issuance medicals. Pilots whose most recent medical certificate was revoked, suspended, withdrawn, or denied will need to obtain a new medical certificate before they can operate under the reforms. Pilots who have never held an FAA medical certificate, including student pilots, will need to go through the process one time only.
After meeting the initial requirements to fly under the reforms, pilots will need to visit a state-licensed physician at least once every four years and take a free online course on aeromedical factors every two years.
“This is a moment to celebrate what we’ve achieved together,” said Baker. “But we know our work isn’t done. The legislation lays out a clear path forward, but many additional details will be worked out during the regulatory process over the coming months. AOPA will be watching closely and working with the FAA to ensure that the regulations reflect the intent of the legislation and the real-world needs of pilots.”
“We have fought long and hard for medical reforms and thanks to the support of GA supporters in both the House and Senate, those reforms are now the law. We are very pleased that pilots will soon reap the benefits, but the devil is always in the details, and some of those details will be worked out in the rulemaking process,” said Jim Coon, AOPA senior vice president of government affairs. “That’s why our team will be closely monitoring the FAA’s next steps and providing input and the pilots’ perspective at every opportunity.”
For additional information, read “High On Health” by Dr. Bill Blank – midwestflyer.com/?p=10144 – or on page 18