Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine December 2022/January 2023 Digital Issue
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) have sent a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration and Canada’s Minister of Transport asking them to allow U.S. pilots to fly into Canada under BasicMed privileges, noting that the Bahamas, Mexico, and Dominican Republic have already allowed this for several years. “The increase in GA traffic and pilots into Canada would undoubtedly help businesses rebuild, provide opportunities for families to see one another, and allow tourism to again flourish with tens of thousands of border crossings by GA pilots each year,” the letter stated.
With the BasicMed program now in its fifth year, more than 60,000 pilots participating, and Mexico and the Bahamas onboard, AOPA and COPA are urging Canada to join the rest of the North American continent in allowing BasicMed operations there as well.
“Since its availability in 2017, BasicMed has proven to be both successful and safe,” wrote AOPA President Mark Baker and COPA President Christine Gervais in a letter to Canada Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra.
Not only has BasicMed proven to be safe as it grows (an analysis of NTSB fatal accident reports found only 10 linked to all classes of medicals with an FAA estimated 76 million flight hours between 2017 and 2019), but the program is helping to reduce the FAA’s medical-certification backlog and aviation medical examiners’ workloads, they said.
Under BasicMed, a participating pilot may fly an aircraft weighing up to 6,000 lbs to altitudes to 18,000 feet MSL, at a speed at or less than 250 kts, with up to five passengers, plus the pilot aboard. A pilot who has previously held an FAA medical certificate can fly under BasicMed by taking an online medical education course every 24 months and receiving a medical examination from a state licensed physician or an AME every 48 months. BasicMed pilots with a cardiovascular, neurological, or psychological condition are required to undergo additional medical review by the FAA.
The July 2 letter to Alghabra also notes that Canada “remains one of the most popular international destinations for U.S. general aviation pilots,” accounting for about 30 percent of annual international GA flights, and now has a rare chance to maximize the impact of accepting BasicMed.
“As we seemingly turn the page on the COVID pandemic and begin to reopen our countries and hopefully our borders, we believe that this request provides a unique opportunity. The increase in general aviation traffic in Canada would undoubtedly help businesses rebuild, provide opportunities for families to see one another, and allow tourism to again flourish with tens of thousands of border crossings by general aviation pilots each year,” they wrote.
In 2017, the Bahamas became the first international destination to grant access to pilots flying under BasicMed shortly after the program went live. Mexico followed in 2019. (Dan Namowitz, AOPA)